US California Supreme Court turns down abortion challenge by missionary group

07:55  21 november  2019
07:55  21 november  2019 Source:   sfchronicle.com

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In a dramatic ruling, the Supreme Court on Monday threw out a Texas abortion access law in a victory to supporters of abortion rights who argued it would have shuttered all but a handful of clinics in the state.

WASHINGTON — Ruling for opponents of abortion on free speech grounds, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday that the State of California may not require religiously oriented “crisis pregnancy centers” to supply women with information about how to end their pregnancies.

The state Supreme Court rejected a challenge by a Catholic missionary organization Wednesday to decisions by state health regulators and an appeals court that voluntary abortions are “medically necessary” procedures that must be provided by health care service plans in California.

Jerry Brown wearing a suit and tie: In 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care, under then-Gov. Jerry Brown, said HMO’s must cover all abortions.© Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

In 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care, under then-Gov. Jerry Brown, said HMO’s must cover all abortions.

Regulations requiring the coverage, adopted by the California Department of Managed Health Care in 2014, were upheld in August by a state appeals court in Sacramento. The court said the choice a pregnant woman makes — to give birth or have an abortion — must be considered “medically necessary.”

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The regulations had been challenged in a lawsuit by Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit, an organization of Catholic women. They did not appeal the August ruling but asked the state Supreme Court to withdraw it as a published decision that is binding on trial courts statewide. The court unanimously refused Wednesday.

State-licensed health care service plans, also known as health maintenance organizations or HMOs, provide coverage from a group or network of doctors and hospitals for a fee. A 1975 state law requires the plans to offer “basic health care services,” and the Department of Managed Health Care’s regulations say the plans must cover physician and hospital services “where medically necessary.”

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The abortion -rights group NARAL Pro-Choice California was a prime sponsor of the California law. California ’s law was challenged by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, an A federal appeals court struck down parts of a 2011 Florida law that sought to prohibit doctors from

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In past years, the department had approved some health plans covering only abortions that were necessary to save a woman’s life. But in 2014 the department, under then-Gov. Jerry Brown, said it had misinterpreted the law and would require coverage of all abortions. It sent letters to seven major plans directing them to remove any language from their contracts that “may discriminate against women by limiting or excluding coverage for termination of pregnancies.”

In its lawsuit, the missionary group said its members belonged to health service plans and objected to paying premiums that could subsidize other members’ abortions. Arguing that only life-saving abortions were “medically necessary,” the group contended the state agency had effectively adopted new regulations without giving the public advance notice or an opportunity to comment, as required by law.

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Supreme Court : California law on abortion … Share this WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said Tuesday that pregnancy centers established to convince women to continue their While similar notification laws in Baltimore and other jurisdictions have been struck down , a unanimous panel of the

A judge in Sacramento dismissed the suit, saying the department had previously misinterpreted the law and was now reading it correctly. The state’s Third District Court of Appeal agreed.

“The correct question is not whether abortion is a medically necessary service, but what service is medically necessary to treat the condition of pregnancy,” Justice Coleman Blease said in the 3-0 ruling. “The answer is that an abortion is one of two possible medically necessary procedures when the patient is pregnant.”

Both childbirth and abortion “are voluntary in the sense that they are chosen by the patient,” Blease said. “Both types of service are medically necessary to treat the condition of pregnancy.”

He noted that the right to an abortion is protected by law in California, which will remain in effect even if the U.S. Supreme Court narrows or eliminates abortion rights under the Constitution.

After Wednesday’s state Supreme Court action, the department said in a statement, “This is an important precedential decision for women’s health care rights, and we are pleased with the outcome.”

Lawyers for the missionary organization declined to comment.

The case is Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit vs. Rouillard, S258380.

Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: begelko@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @BobEgelko

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