President Joe Biden and his administration want to kick open the spigot for taxpayer funding for abortions.
But the most liberal federal appeals court in America, which may now be showing the outcome of former President Donald Trump’s aggressive push to balance the court, has ruled that churches cannot be forced to pay for employees’ abortions.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a public interest religious liberty law firm, reported the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Thursday.
The ADF represented Cedar Park Assembly of God Church near Seattle in a legal brawl over a 2018 Washington state law.
According to ADF, Washington’s law required the church to provide abortion coverage under its health insurance plan if the plan also offered maternity care coverage to its employees. Failing to do so could mean fines and criminal penalties, including imprisonment.
Cedar Park challenged the law, saying that because of the regulation, its insurer, Kaiser Permanente, quit offering plans that restricted abortion coverage. Moreover, the church could not find suitable replacement coverage.
The state argued that the law did not stop the insurer from offering such plans.
A district court judge sided with the state, and had tossed the case.
Yet the appellate court disagreed.
“Cedar Park’s complaint plausibly alleged that, due to the enactment of SB 6219, its health insurer (Kaiser Permanente) stopped offering a plan with abortion coverage restrictions and Cedar Park could not procure comparable replacement coverage,” the ruling said.
“Kaiser Permanente reasonably understood the plain language” of the law, the court’s ruling noted, “and it acted accordingly when it removed the restrictions from Cedar Park’s health plan.”
“There is no evidence in the record,” the court added, “clearly demonstrating that Cedar Park could obtain acceptable coverage at the time it filed its complaint.”
The court pointed out that the church could obtain coverage, even from Kaiser Permanente, if the state is blocked from enforcing the law.
In a statement, ADF attorney Elissa Graves said, “No church should be forced to cover abortions, and certainly not a church like Cedar Park that dedicates its ministry to protecting and celebrating life.”
“We are pleased the 9th Circuit rightly recognized the harm that Washington state has inflicted on Cedar Park Church in subjecting it to this unprecedented mandate,” Graves added.
Interestingly, the court that once served as conservatives’ most favorite judicial punching bag is starting to lean more rightward because of Trump.
Trump appointed 10 of the 9th Circuit’s 29 judges. Adding those named by former President George W. Bush, Republican presidents have now appointed 13 of them.
The three judges who heard the Cedar Park case were all appointed by Bush.
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