California Gov. Gavin Newsom dismissed the threat as a political maneuver.
“The Trump administration would rather rile up its base to score cheap political points and risk access to care for millions than do what’s right. California will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose, and we won’t back down from defending reproductive freedom for everybody — full stop.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on Twitter that California would defend the law.
“The President & VP are once again attacking women’s health in order to grandstand at today’s anti-choice rally,” Becerra wrote. He added: “While it’s unfortunate that the President’s moral compass always points to sowing division for cheap political gain, California won’t be deterred.”
Six states, including California, require private health plans to cover abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights think tank, while 11 states have laws that restrict abortion coverage in private health plans, including those offered on the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance market.
In a conference call Friday with reporters, Roger Severino, director of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, cited the Weldon amendment, routinely added to HHS appropriations bills, as the legal basis for the administration’s argument that California is violating federal law.
The amendment says that no such funds “may be made available to a federal agency or program, or to a state or local government, if such agency, program, or government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
In his statement, Newsom cited a federal opinion that confirmed California’s compliance with the Weldon amendment, which appeared to refer to a 2016 Obama administration decision that found California’s abortion coverage requirements did not violate an abortion-related amendment passed by Congress .
Severino also said HHS took this action after it received complaints from two California groups: Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit and Skyline Wesleyan Church.
He declined to identify what specific funding stream the Trump administration might pull. “There is a process, if we do not reach accord, that could lead to revocation of streams of federal funding,” he said. “California is a big consumer of HHS funds. We’re giving them 30 days so that we don’t have to cross that bridge.”
Antiabortion groups heralded the announcement and the administration’s work on the social conservative agenda.
“President Trump has governed as the most pro-life president in history,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List. “Abortion is not health care and no American should ever be forced to participate in the destruction of innocent human life.”
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most cases, and about 7 in 10 said that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned. Seventy-nine percent believe the decision is best made by women themselves in consultation with their doctors, rather than by lawmakers.
Majorities of Americans also support laws that require women to wait 24 hours between meeting a health-care provider and getting an abortion and laws requiring doctors to show and describe ultrasound images to them.
“While Trump stands with the small number of Americans who want politicians to interfere with their personal health decisions, we’ll be standing with the nearly 80 percent of Americans who support abortion access,” Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund said in a statement. “We will never stop fighting for all of the people in this country who need access to sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion.”
But the administration has seen some of its social conservative agenda stopped in the courts. A federal judge voided HHS’ “conscience rule” that would have allowed health-care providers to opt out of performing certain procedures, such as abortions or sterilizations, based on religious or moral objections. The administration is appealing that decision.