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Defying Federal Law, CA Senator Introduces Bill to Force Insurance Companies to Pay for Free Abortions

In defiance of federal law, California already requires all private health insurance plans to include coverage for abortion. Last December, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it would withhold $200 million from California unless the state changed course. Unconcerned about the threat, Senator Lena Gonzalez wants to push the state’s defiance further with the introduction of SB-245, a bill to force all private insurance policies to pay for abortions free of charge, no co-pays, no deductibles.

“Everyone should have the right to make their own decision about when, if and how to start a family,” Gonzalez explains. “It is heartbreaking to imagine the devastating stress and crushing uncertainty that individuals have to go through, as they rush to save funds in hopes of getting the care they need. If our state is to be a true leader and defender of reproductive freedom, then we must ensure care for those who need it most.”

Several California pro-life leaders strongly objected. “The deceitful rhetoric used to advocate for this bill makes abortion seem like a compassionate treatment for vulnerable women with a serious health condition,” said Greg Burt, Director of Capitol Engagement with the California Family Council. “But pregnancy isn’t a disease and ending the life of an unborn child has nothing to do with healthcare. There are so many better live-giving solutions to an unplanned pregnancy that don’t leave women with a lifetime of regret. Nor are they against the law.”

Theresa Brennan, Executive Vice President of the Right to Life League, says this bill puts low-income women at risk and doesn’t help them as Gonzalez claims. “SB 245 makes it even easier for poor, at-risk, and disadvantaged women to be taken advantage of when they are most in need of assistance,” Brennan said. “Abortion is bad for women, and the effects are long-lasting and devastating, with a staggering correlation between suicide rates/mental disorders and abortion.  Rather than provide increased access to prenatal care, incentives for adoption, or other social services, which would actually benefit mothers and their children, Senator Gonzalez’s bill will make the worst choice even easier, without encouraging any other options.”

Marylee Shrider, Executive Director for Right to Life Kern County, also criticized the bill for pushing one choice on women in crisis. “When it comes to crisis pregnancies California Democrats invariably see abortion as the only choice,” Shrider said. “Instead of forcing Californians to pay higher premiums to cover the cost of free abortions, we should ensure that frightened and vulnerable young women have access to a host of healthy options, including low-cost pre-natal care and post-natal services.” 

Wynette Sills, Director of Californians for Life, believes SB 245 will inevitably increase the number of abortions in a state she says already kills more than 130,000 babies every year through all nine months of pregnancy. “When abortions are made free, even more abortions will likely occur,” Sills said. “California taxpayers are already forced to pay for Medi-Cal funded abortions and SB 245 is just another way Democrats will promote even more harm to both mother and child. SB 245 is not a “pro-choice” bill, but is strictly a pro-abortion effort as it only promotes violently ending a child’s life through abortion, instead of addressing the often significant insurance co-pay and deductible costs of a pregnant woman’s pre-natal care and delivery.”

SB 245 specifically prohibits private health care service plans, such as an individual or group policy of disability insurance policy from “imposing a deductible, coinsurance, copayment, or any other cost-sharing requirement on coverage for all abortion services.” It also “would prohibit cost-sharing from being imposed on a Medi-Cal beneficiary for those services.” Its first hearing before the Senate Health Committee has not yet been scheduled.  

At the beginning of last year, HHS first warned California that its abortion coverage mandate violated the federal Weldon Amendments, which forbid states from discriminating against health plans with no abortion coverage. Then in December, HHS released a press release from its Office of Civil Rights saying the federal government would hold back $200 million in Medicaid funds for every quarter the state continues to violate the law. Read more about this here

Take Action

SB 245 has been assigned to the Senate Health Committee with a hearing expected after February 24. The exact date has not been scheduled. Make sure you call the members of the Senate Health Committee listed below and let them know you oppose forcing insurance companies to provide free abortions.

Senator Richard Pan (Chair)

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 5114, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4006

District Office
1020 N. Street, Room 576, Sacramento, CA 95814; (916) 651-1529
2251 Florin Road, Suite 156, Sacramento, CA 95822; (916) 262-2904

Senator Melissa A. Melendez (Vice Chair)

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 4082, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4028

District Office
25186 Hancock Avenue, Suite 320, Murrieta, CA 92562; (951) 894-3530
45-125 Smurr Street, Suite B, Indio, CA 92201; (760) 398-6442

Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 4052, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4005

District Offices
31 E. Channel Street, Suite 400, Stockton, CA 95202; (209) 948-7930

Senator Lena A. Gonzalez

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 2068, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4033

District Office
3939 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 107, Long Beach, CA 90807; (562) 256-7921
6550 Miles Avenue, Room 214, Huntington Park, CA 90255; (323) 277-4560

Senator Shannon Grove

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 305, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4016

District Office
5701 Truxtun Avenue, Suite 150, Bakersfield, CA 93309; (661) 323-0443
7248 Joshua Lane, Suite B, Yucca Valley, CA 92284; (760) 228-3136

Senator Melissa Hurtado

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 4032, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4014

District Office
1201 E. California Avenue, Suite A, Bakersfield, CA 93307; (661) 395-2620
611 N. Douty Street, Hanford, CA 93230; (559) 585-7161
2550 Mariposa Mall, Suite 2016, Fresno, CA 93721; (559) 264-3070

Senator Connie M. Leyva

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 4061, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4020

District Office
464 W. 4th Street, Suite 454B, San Bernardino, CA 92401; (909) 888-5360
101 W. Mission Blvd., Suite 111, Pomona, CA 91766; (909) 469-1110

Senator Monique Limón

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 3092, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4019

District Offices
222 E. Carrillo Street, Suite 309, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; (805) 965-0862
300 E. Esplanade Drive, Suite 430, Oxnard, CA 93036; (805) 988-1940

Senator Richard D. Roth

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 2080, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4031

District Office
3737 Main Street, Suite 104, Riverside, CA 92501; (951) 680-6750
137 N. Perris Blvd., Rm. 17, Perris, CA 92570; (951) 443-4078

Senator Susan Rubio

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 5035, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4022

District Offices
100 S. Vincent Avenue, Suite 401, West Covina, CA 91790; (626) 430-2499

Senator Scott D. Wiener

Capitol Office
State Capitol, Room 5100, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4011

District Office
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14800, San Francisco, CA 94102; (415) 557-1300


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