by Steven Ertelt
December 13, 2004
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A second lawsuit has been filed to challenge the constitutionality of a provision included in a budget bill signed by President Bush that prohibits agencies that receive federal dollars from discriminating against hospitals, medical professionals or health insurers who do not want to perform or pay for abortions.
The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, which works with abortion advocacy groups and partners with Planned Parenthood, filed a lawsuit Monday to challenge the conscience clause.
NFPRHA claims that the provision, sponsored by Representatives Henry Hyde and Dave Weldon, conflicts with a Congressional requirement stipulating that health care agencies receiving certain federal funds must inform women about abortions.
The group says the Hyde-Weldon measure would unfairly prohibit states, hospitals and doctors from receiving billions of taxpayer funds from federal programs.
Those Title X programs, referring to a section of the federal budget, can receive money only if they inform women about abortions and refer them to an abortion facility if they want one.
However, Congressman Weldon considers that itself a violation of a decades-old Congressional provision, sponsored by Hyde and something Congress has passed annually since 1976, prohibiting the federal government from spending funds on almost all abortions.
Pro-life groups say the Hyde-Weldon law is necessary because abortion advocates have been attacking medical agencies and professionals who don’t want to be involved in abortion.
"This lawsuit is the height of hypocrisy: A ‘pro-choice’ group is suing so that health care providers will have no choice but to participate in abortion," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said.
"Over a million abortions are done every year by willing abortion providers in this country — now the abortion lobby wants Catholic and other health care providers with moral objections to be forced into the practice of abortion," Ruse added.
Ruse cited an attempt by the ACLU of New Jersey in 2003 where it tried to block a Catholic hospital from merging with another health care provider unless it built an abortion facility. In Alaska, abortion advocates fought to force a public hospital to perform abortions against the desire of its board of directors.
That prompted the need for the Hyde-Weldon provision.
"Pro-abortion groups are now pressing the courts to invent a new legal doctrine, under which health care providers are obligated to participate in abortions and Congress is powerless to say otherwise," Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee told LifeNews.com.
"It is frankly not surprising that a group like NFPRHA would rush to court," Ruse agreed. "When abortion activists fail in the democratic arena, as they so often do, they turn to the courts to achieve their goals."
The NFPRHA is the second filed against the provision. California state attorney general Bill Lockyer filed the lawsuit against the measure last week.