Two California Universities Move to Drop Insurance Coverage of Abortion

Starting next year, at least two universities in California will deny faculty, staff, and administrators seeking abortions coverage of the procedure, unless California state officials decide that the move violates state law.

An investigation by California Lawyer magazine found that the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), which is tasked in part with reviewing employee health insurance policies, approved at least two insurance policies that did not provide coverage for certain abortions.

Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University, both Catholic-affiliated schools, have announced they will only offer those policies, one from Anthem Blue Cross and another from Kaiser Permanente, that include limited abortion coverage.

At issue is whether so-called elective abortion can be distinguished from “medically necessary” abortions, a term used to describe abortions performed in pregnancies that are the result of assault or incest, or in cases when the mother’s life is at risk.

Last October, Santa Clara University President Michael E. Engh sent a letter to faculty saying that the school’s “core commitment as a Catholic university are incompatible with the inclusion of elective abortion coverage in the University’s health plans,” and said the university plan would only cover “therapeutic abortions.”

Loyola has already instituted the changes to its plan, which were accepted by the trustees of the college last October. Santa Clara’s new policy won’t take effect until the start of 2015.

California has long had abortion protections on the books. In 1967, the state legislature enacted the Therapeutic Abortion Act, a law ensuring the rights of women to get an abortion within 20 weeks of the pregnancy when the health of the mother is at risk. Five years later, the California Supreme Court expanded the Therapeutic Abortion Act by removing the pieces of the law that restricted abortions to cases of maternal risk, leaving only the provision that an abortion be performed by a doctor in a hospital.

In 1975, California passed the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act, which required that health plans in the state cover all “medically necessary” procedures. Then, in the early ’80s the California Supreme Court struck down a law restricting the use of state funding for abortion services; now, Medi-Cal covers the cost of abortions. And finally, in the early 2000s, the state officially repealed the rest of the Therapeutic Abortion Act, and codified Roe v. Wade into state law.

Still, through open records requests the California Lawyer investigation found that the DMHC approved insurance plans from Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente in 2008 and 2012, respectively, that limit coverage for abortion. The 2008 plan approved for Anthem did not include any coverage for abortion, and the Kaiser plan included coverage only in cases of medical necessity. Those approvals laid the groundwork for the Catholic universities’ plans.

However, state officials from the DMHC say they are in the process of reviewing their decision to approve the policies as well as California law related to abortion coverage.

Rodger Butler, an information office for the DMHC, told RH Reality Check via email that the department is “currently engaged in an in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding coverage for abortion services under California law. This analysis includes a review of all previously approved health plan documents and consultation with legal experts in areas of state, federal, and constitutional law. Once complete, the results of this analysis will inform the DMHC’s position moving forward.”

Butler did not confirm when the review process might end, but if a decision is made before the end of the year it could block Santa Clara’s policy change and reverse Loyola’s.

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  • P. McCoy

    If they don’t get their way, want to guess that they will drop hospital care altogether? It clear to see that a non sentient entity involved in a parasitic relationship with a sentient host body is far more important than the host body ( woman)

  • L-dan

    Ugh. It’s sad that if you’re a woman, you’re expected to put much more work into investigating schools, employers, local hospitals, state laws, etc. and have to weigh whether an offer of employment, offer of admittance, and even a place to live, are going to be worth taking on the role of second-class citizen. It’s not enough that women already have to deal with all the ramifications of being the sex that gets pregnant, but we have to spend energy navigating the ever shifting landscape of institutions willing to create a whole separate system for us because of it.

    *hunting for contact information to toss in my two cents as we speak.*

    • conversate

      Yah and a dumbass on SPL is telling me that abortion is NOT about equality – since only women get pregnant, its purely a bodily autonomy issue. And people just have to get all gender essentialist and then unwanted pregnancy will no longer be a downer.

      • L-dan

        Gender essentialism, where equality closely resembles “separate but equal” at best.

        I can’t even wrap my brain around how ‘only women get pregnant so abortion is not about equality’ is even a logical argument.

        • conversate

          Equal individual rights under the law.

          That means that yes, only women can get pregnant, so, they must have the same rights to bodily autonomy as men, derp.

          • Shan

            How do they…I can’t even…

          • conversate

            Yeah, and one asshat told me that abortion could absolutely *not* be justified on the basis of equality. NOPE. Women’s rights, under the constitution, just can’t override fetal rights!

          • Shan

            Constitutional scholars and experts (including Scalia) have said that the constitution doesn’t explicitly afford women rights equal to men (or maybe even any at all, I’m not clear on what their actual argument is or how it works because INSANE). So how can they even try to say that the constitution grants a fetus (or embryo or whatever) any that women don’t have? Men’s rights, yes. Women’s rights, not so much. Fetal rights, check. Wait, MORE insane.


          • L-dan

            Hmm, except that trans men can and do get pregnant. So abortion allows for equal bodily autonomy! Everyone gets to decide what happens to their own body. Seems sensible to me.

          • Arekushieru

            Then ask them why it is that they aren’t agitating that all sex but PIV sex be illegal rather than simply opposing any activity that doesn’t involve one man and one woman? After all, men and women can and do have oral and anal sex. Hmm. Also, ask them why there is such a thing as male on female rape, then? After all, people just have to get all gender essentialist and then such unwanted sex will no longer be a downer. Of course, it helps, at the same time, if you don’t happen to be a member of the gender who will end up in the lose column of a win/lose situation, no? And the fact that only one gender ever has to adopt an according essentialist stance is not misogynistic in and of itself, now, is it?

            Or to turn it around on them, again: if gender essentialism can work one way it can also work in the REVERSE. Meaning, if gender essentialism equals assigned gender roles based on functions of reproductive organs, it should ALSO equal assigned reproductive organs based on functions of gender roles, but, since neither the functions of reproductive organs NOR gender roles can ever have the same beginning, gender essentialism starts from a false premise. Simply because, when you break it down, you’re basically saying that gender essentialism does NOT equal gender essentialism. Their argument collapses in on itself.

            Finally, I’d like to ask them to take a look at a little website called Science Daily. It points out that the uterus may not be serving its original purpose and the way it came about was NOT indicative of the typical path that evolution would take. It is believed to be attributable more to environmental pressure than actual genetic mutations. And, if you are not one to believe in evolution, epigenetic factors and mutations, their theories STILL don’t make sense. As God, HIMSELF, obviously viewed pregnancy as a temporary punishment. See, increased pangs of childbirth at Adam and Eve’s eviction from Eden AND see how temporary Adam’s own punishment was.

        • redlemon

          It makes me think of the “Life of Brian” Monty Python scene, where they argue over whether or not men can have babies and then finally settle that men have the “right to have babies”.

  • Nicko Thime

    We need to completely remove businesses from the health care equation. No business should be able to have any input on personal health issues no matter what they think the magical sky fairy is telling them.

    We certainly need to remind religion that, in America, it is subject to our secular laws.

    • Arekushieru

      Yup, even by their OWN biblical standards. So, even if the United States didn’t explicitly separate Church and state within the Constitution, they would be hypocrites if they didn’t obey secular laws, anyways.

  • poobah69

    I had a therapeudic abortion long before Roe Wade. It was in 1966. I told the doctor I would kill myself if forced to have this baby and he asked me if I would say that to a psyc. doctor. I said I would and then I was scheduled to have an abortion at Stanford Hospital. If a woman’s medical coverage covers therapeudic abortions, this is the way to get one. No problem.

  • Ed Walters

    I do not support this move.