Two Catholic universities in California will no longer be allowed to exclude abortion coverage from their health insurance plans, according to a decision from the state;s Department of Managed Health Care.

The state of California had previously decided to allow the insurance companies for Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara universities to deny abortion coverage, except in cases where it was needed to save a woman’s life or health. On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown’s Department of Managed Health Care reversed the decision, citing a 1975 state law requiring group health plans to cover all basic services, and sent letters to the insurance companies to inform them of the change.

“Abortion is a basic health care service,” said the department’s director, Michelle Rouillard, in the letter. “The California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.”

The universities employ around 1,000 people each. Faculty groups at both universities protested the exclusion of abortion coverage.

Other religious colleges have tried to cut abortion and contraceptive coverage as well by challenging the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires health insurance providers to cover preventive health services – including all FDA-approved contraceptives, such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs – without charging co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance. In July, a majority of the US Supreme Court granted a temporary emergency injunction to Wheaton College, a Christian college in Illinois, ruling that the school does not have to comply with the ACA contraceptive coverage benefit.

Media Resources: SF Gate 8/22/14; Inside Higher Ed 8/25/14; Department of Managed Health Care 8/22/14; ACLU of Northern California 8/22/14; Feminist Newswire 7/7/14

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