“We are taking enforcement action against the state of California to impose universal abortion insurance mandates on health insurance policies in the state,” Azar said. “We have informed California that this policy is clearly in violation of federal laws of conscience, but the state is refusing to resolve the issue and comply with it.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, accused the Trump administration of “ threatening the health of Californians just to score cheap political points – and ‘vowed’ to continue championing reproductive health during a global pandemic and pushing back against this extreme presidential scope. “
Azar added that his department would try to continue withholding $ 200 million for each additional quarter that the state fails to comply with – although it’s unclear how, given that Azar will fill his current role less than a month in 2021 and the President-elect Joe It seems unlikely that the Biden administration will pursue a continuation of the policy.
CNN has contacted the University of Vermont Medical Center for comment. The medical center has claimed in the past that the nurse’s allegations are false and that it was willing to work with the HHS ‘Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to further support the religious rights of both workers and the public. legal rights of patients.
The two measures reaffirm that the government continues to focus on healthcare providers’ religious and moral objections to controversial health care procedures, such as abortion, under President Donald Trump. The department established a Conscience and Religious Freedom Department in January 2018.
When asked about the timing of the action in California, given the outgoing government, Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office of Civil Rights, said in a press call on Wednesday that “rights of conscience are not the subject of partisan debate. make up who the president is. It doesn’t matter who is the director of the civil rights office, whether it is me or someone else – the laws passed by Congress on a bipartisan basis deserve to be enforced. ”
When asked by CNN about Becerra’s defense, Severino said the California religious groups who are contesting the abortion requirement are “the real victims who are injured here, and it’s up to the state to fix it.”
“Whichever method they choose to address the issues raised by the complainants there, we are not going to dictate to them the exact method of ensuring that people who want abortion-free coverage under the law and abortion-free coverage under the law, ”he said.
Severino did not answer CNN’s question about the timing of cutting $ 200 million in Medicaid funding amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic.
Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University who worked for former President Bill Clinton, said that in light of Trump’s declining presidency, “it is a political, practically empty threat, but a real one from a legal point of view. “
“When you start a whole new agency and start up entire divisions, they run into a torrent of trouble,” she said of the Biden government running into California policy, adding that “it may be justified to have (court) protection so nothing can happen. Because turning the wheels and disengaging the wheels and reversing the course within an agency is a complicated matter, procedural and legal. “