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California healthcare funding cut over abortion row

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US President Donald Trump, who once described himself as "very pro-choice," now strongly opposes abortion, a major concern for many of his religious supporters./AFP
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Dec 17, 2020 - 07:52 AM

LOS ANGELES — US President Donald Trump’s administration Wednesday cut $200 million from California’s healthcare funding in a row over abortion coverage, a move dismissed by the state’s governor as intended to “score cheap political points.”

Health secretary Alex Azar said the reduction in California’s Medicaid funds — a late salvo in Trump’s anti-abortion push since taking office four years ago — was due to a state law compelling insurers to cover elective abortions.

Announcing the move, Azar said his department “has worked like never before to enforce laws Congress has passed to protect Americans’ religious freedom and conscience rights.”

“California… violated federal conscience laws and refused to work with us to take corrective action, so we are now taking action to hold them to account.”

But President-elect Joe Biden could soon reverse the move, and has nominated California’s pro-choice attorney-general Xavier Becerra to replace Azar next month.

Trump, who once described himself as “very pro-choice,” has strongly opposed abortion, a major concern for many of his religious supporters.

California Governor Gavin Newsom condemned the move, which would strip the same amount from the liberal state’s federal healthcare funding each quarter.

“Women’s health is public health. It’s wrong that the Trump Administration would threaten Californians’ health just to score cheap political points -– and during a global pandemic,” he said.

“We will continue to stand up for reproductive health and push back against this extreme presidential overreach.”

California receives tens of billions of dollars in federal contributions annually to its Medicaid state insurance program.

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