Court Rules Pro-Life Groups Can Join Abortion Conscience Clause Case

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 11, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Court Rules Pro-Life Groups Can Join Abortion Conscience Clause Case Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 11, 2006

San Francisco, CA ( — A federal appeals court has ruled that two medical groups for pro-life health care providers can join the Bush administration and Congress in defending legislation that protects doctors and others from having to participate in abortions.

President Bush signed a federal spending bill with a provision sponsored by pro-life Reps. Henry Hyde and Dave Weldon saying the federal government can’t discriminate against doctors, hospitals or health insurance companies that do not want to perform or pay for abortions.

Any federal, state or local agency that receives federal money would lose those funds if they engage in such discrimination.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit against the law in January 2005 and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the two pro-life groups can join in defending the law.

The court ruled the Alliance for Catholic Health Care and the Medical Groups, which represents health organizations opposing abortion, can help the federal government defend the provision in the case.

According to a Reuters report, it said the groups can participate because medical providers will be forced to choose between their moral beliefs and losing their jobs or medical licenses.

"Congress passed the Weldon Amendment precisely to keep doctors who have moral qualms about performing abortions from being put to the hard choice of acting in conformity with their beliefs, or risking imprisonment or loss of professional livelihood," Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for a three-judge panel of the appellate court.

Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar condemned the decision in an interview with Reuters.

"Regardless of who is to intervene in this case, the Weldon Amendment remains an unconstitutional infringement of California’s sovereignty as well as a threat to the reproductive health care rights of the state’s women," she claimed.

Weldon previously told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that his amendment "in no way infringes" on a woman’s right to an abortion. Instead, Weldon said in a statement, it only says "you can’t force the unwilling" to perform them.

"Mr. Lockyer seems anxious to preserve California’s right to coerce such unwilling providers into performing abortions," Weldon said.

The California-based Alliance for Catholic Health Care represents nine Catholic health care systems that operate 59 Catholic and community-based affiliated hospitals. Together, Catholic health care providers comprise over 15 percent of California’s hospitals.

"A variety of private and public organizations are engaged in systematic efforts to require Catholic hospitals to provide or arrange for the provision of services that are antithetical to Catholic ethical beliefs," the group says on its web site.

The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association has also filed a lawsuit against the law.

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, formerly of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said.

Ruse, now with the Family Research Council, cited an attempt by the ACLU of New Jersey in 2003 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.

Related web sites:
Alliance for Catholic Health Care –