Planned Parenthood Lobbying Efforts Paid Off in California

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by Bruce Walker  •  •  April 24, 2019   

Joint effort eliminated religious exemptions for abortion and birth control

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California bureaucrats caved to Planned Parenthood lobbyists when it opted to prohibit religious exemptions for birth control and abortion insurance coverage in 2014.

Emails obtained through the discovery process exposed California's Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) reversal of its longstanding policy of granting exemptions to groups with deeply held religious convictions against unnatural birth control and terminating pregnancies.

The emails surfaced after the Scottsdale, Arizona Christian-oriented, conservative-leaning legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sued DMHC on behalf of three churches — Foothill Church in Glendora, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in Chino and The Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch — in the case Foothill Church v. Rouillard.

The DMCH issued a mandate in 2014 that forced all churches and religious organizations in the state to provide employees abortion and birth-control insurance coverage. ADF uncovered a cache of emails during discovery that revealed DMHC had been working closely with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California (PPAC) to reverse its longstanding policy of offering religious exemptions.

On Feb. 2, 2014, for example, Beth H. Parker, PPAC's chief legal counsel, notified DMHC principals to notify them basic coverage for Loyola Marymount University — a Los Angeles Catholic college — employees didn't include abortions. This was followed by an email from PPAC lobbyist Brianna K. Pittman to Lark Park, a policy advisor to then-Gov. Jerry Brown. According to Nicole Russell reporting in The Federalist:

The emails, dated from February to May 2014, detail numerous exchanges with DMHC officials and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California's legal counsel and legislative advocates. The emails provide markers of meetings that occurred and show a gradual progression of lobbying efforts: They start with Planned Parenthood simply requesting to know why the state exempted religious universities from sponsoring abortions, then Planned Parenthood begins trying to persuade the DMHC to reverse their exemption, and ultimately the department even requests Planned Parenthood's assistance to make this happen.

The eventual tone of the later emails is one of complicity between PPAC and DMHC to force religious groups and churches into violating their deeply held religious convictions. According to ADF:

Planned Parenthood asked agency officials to "fix" the "issue" of religious organizations receiving exemptions from the abortion mandate. Planned Parenthood also threatened to promote a legislative "solution" if the administrative agency didn't act. The abortion giant demanded that the DMHC:

  • Refuse to approve any further exemptions. 
  • Rescind the approval of healthcare plans that offer an exemption to the elective abortion mandate.
  • "Find a solution to fix the already approved plans" that offer exemptions for religious organizations.
The eventual tone of the later emails is one of complicity between PPAC and DMHC to force religious groups and churches into violating their deeply held religious convictions.

Pittman emailed Donna Campbell, deputy secretary of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the California Health and Human Services Agency, on April 25 to apply more pressure on the issue:

Hope you are well. Thank you again for meeting with us last week, we were very pleased to hear about the actions that HHS is taking on this issue. I wanted to check in on HHS & DMHC progress, including where you are in the timeline to finding a solution in 4–6 weeks? Is there anything further that our folks can provide as far as legal analysis or documents?

Would it be possible to set up a recurring call over the next couple of week [sic] for us to chat? I know we said that you and I would keep in touch on how things are going and the folks who participated in the meeting are getting anxious for word on the issue and will continue [sic] want updates as things progress.

As noted by ADF legal counsel Jeremiah Galus in a press release, his group's Foothill Church v. Rouillard effort is protecting First Amendment principles guiding freedom of religion in the United States.

"The government shouldn't be forcing churches to pay for abortion, and it is shameful and inappropriate that the government did so in this case at the bidding of Planned Parenthood," he said. "California officials are required to follow the law and legal precedent, not the dictates of groups that have an axe to grind against religious organizations that don't share their views on abortion. We are asking the 9th Circuit to strike down this obviously unconstitutional mandate."

ADF senior counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries, added: "No state agency anywhere has the right to demand that church health insurance plans contain this kind of coverage, which clearly violates these churches' most sincerely held religious beliefs." 

He continued: "The state has no business implementing Planned Parenthood's scheme to force religious groups to act contrary to their own pro-life beliefs under the threat of massive penalties if they don't comply."

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