Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced the move during a White House event celebrating the Trump administration’s pro-life accomplishments. The Trump administration has long assessed that California was in violation of federal conscience laws by requiring health insurers to pay for abortions.
“We have informed California that this policy clearly violates federal conscience laws, but the state refuses to fix the issue and comply,” Azar said. “Accordingly, we plan to withhold $200 million in federal Medicaid funds from the state in the first quarter of 2021, and unless California amends its policies, we will seek to withhold an additional $200 million every quarter until it complies.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom commented on the move in a Twitter message.
“Nothing like the ‘pro-life’ party eliminating healthcare during a GLOBAL PANDEMIC,” the governor wrote. “California will survive without this $$ for now—but their frail, pathetic patriarchal system they are so desperate to protect won’t.”
As early as January, the Trump administration had warned California that it was in violation of federal law and needed to take action to address the violation. The state began the mandate in 2014. The same year, two Catholic universities filed complaints against the mandate with the HHS Department’s Office of Civil Rights.
Azar also announced that the Department of Justice will be filing a separate pro-life conscience lawsuit.
“For the past few years, I have never tired of stating this fact: There has never been a more pro-life or pro-religious freedom administration in American history,” Azar said.
The White House held the event roughly a week after pro-life and religious liberty advocates criticized former Vice President Joe Biden for nominating California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his HHS secretary in case that he and not Trump is formally certified by Congress in January to be the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
“Becerra will be anything but moderate when it comes to abortion and religious freedom,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel Denise Harle told The Epoch Times.
Harle said ADF “had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to stop Becerra from forcing religious pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions.”
“Becerra also continued the prosecution of pro-life journalists that was started by then-Attorney General Kamala Harris,” he said. “And while churches in California had to wage court battles in order to open their doors, abortion facilities have been treated as ‘essential’ businesses.”
Mark Tapscott contributed to this report.