Lawsuit Against Abortion Conscience Clause Can Continue, Judge Rules

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 29, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Lawsuit Against Abortion Conscience Clause Can Continue, Judge Rules Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 29, 2005

San Francisco, CA ( — A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by the state of California to overturn a federal law that protects hospitals, health insurance companies and medical professionals who don’t want to pay for or perform abortions can move ahead.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco issued an order late Monday rejecting a request by the federal government to dismiss the lawsuit filed against the law by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

He cited Lockyer’s believes that the law prevents California from enforcing its own laws regarding abortions which the state claims are medically necessary.

Saying the state has the standing to sue, Judge White ruled that Lockyer "sufficiently alleged an injury to California’s sovereign interest in the continued enforceability of its own statutes."

The Hyde-Weldon provision, signed into law by President Bush in December, prohibits agencies that receive federal dollars from discriminating against medical personnel or agencies that don’t want to be involved in abortions.

Lockyer says the provision should have an exemption for emergency abortions and notes that California law prohibits medical personnel from opting out of performing an abortion in such a situation.

Another California law requires health care facilities to provide emergency services, including abortions, to any patient or to help them find another facility that will.

Lockyer also contends the state would lose significant federal funds if it doesn’t comply with the provision.

Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a pro-life California group, contends the state wouldn’t lose any federal money if it didn’t force health care entities to be involved in the abortion business.

"California doesn’t have to lose any federal funds," Thomasson said. "Instead of behaving like a lawyer for the wealthy abortion groups, Lockyer should immediately draft legislation to conform California to the new federal law."

Thomasson said Lockyer should "cease and desist from forcing doctors and nurses to horribly kill unborn children against their own conscience."

Lockyer’s lawsuit was filed in a California-based federal court and he seeks a declaration that the Hyde-Weldon amendment is invalid.

Pro-life groups say the measure is necessary because abortion advocates are working feverishly to require hospitals and insurance companies to perform or pay for abortions.

Maureen Bailey of the pro-life office of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Zenit that "the ACLU of New Jersey intervened in a hospital merger in an attempt to force a Catholic hospital to build an abortion clinic."

"In Florida, after a community hospital joined a cost-sharing consortium with a Catholic system and ceased performing abortions, it was sued by the city of St. Petersburg, which leased land to the hospital," Bailey explained. "Soon the ACLU sued both the city and the hospital. Under the pressure of the lawsuits, the hospital left the cost-saving consortium."

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed a legal brief in the lawsuit on behalf of members of Congress.

"The health care professional who is pro-life and opposed to abortion should not be punished and face discrimination for abiding by those convictions," said Jay Sekulow, ACLJ’s chief counsel.

Sekulow said his firm has been involved with numerous cases where health care professionals were punished or lost their jobs because of their pro-life beliefs. In one case, the ACLJ successfully defended a California nurse who did not want to dispense a drug that can cause abortions.