by Steven Ertelt
January 12, 2007
San Francisco, CA (LifeNews.com) — A federal judge held a hearing on Friday on whether or not to overturn a national law protecting pro-life medical clinics and professionals. The state of California and pro-abortion groups had challenged the Weldon amendment, which protects them when they refuse to be involved in abortions.
The Weldon Amendment is a federal law that prohibits the federal government or state and local governments receiving certain federal aid from discriminating against medical professionals who refuse to perform or refer 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 Weldon provision in January 2005 saying that California stood to lose billions in federal funds if it didn’t follow the provisions of the law.
He claims the state needs to provide "emergency abortion care" and is hoping to overturn the Weldon amendment to do so.
During the hearing, Deputy California Attorney General Timothy Muscat told U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, "We ask for a very limited exception … in a situation where it can literally be a matter of life and death.”
California attorneys also claimed that the state stands to lose $37 billion in federal funding on education and health issues because it refuses to follow the modest abortion provision.
However, according to AP, U.S. Justice Department attorney James Gilligan argued that the state was wrong in asserting that the Weldon provision limited access to abortion.
"All it does is protect the conscience of doctors who are opposed to abortion," Gilligan said.
The Weldon provision stays in effect in a continuing spending resolution Congress previously approved but may no longer be federal law after February 16 if Congressional lawmakers don’t renew its provisions. That may not happen with pro-abortion lawmakers controlling Congress.
White heard arguments for about an hour in the case, according to an AP report, and will issue a written ruling later.
Pro-life groups strongly support the Weldon provision.
“Doctors and nurses should not be forced to participate in abortions against their religious beliefs or conscience," Casey Mattox, an attorney for the Christian Legal Society, said in a statement LifeNews.com obtained.
The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association also challenged the Weldon Amendment in a lawsuit just days after it was first signed into law by President Bush in December 2005.
After a federal district court upheld the law in that case, the pro-abortion group appealed arguing that the Weldon Amendment was too vague to enforce. It also claimed their member organizations had a constitutional right to force medical professionals to provide abortion referrals.
In November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that NFPRHA lacked standing to challenge the Weldon Amendment.
“This decision turns back the effort to enshrine abortion as a right above even the First Amendment," Mattox explained.
The Christian Medical Association and American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists intervened to defend the Weldon Amendment on behalf of members of the two medical associations, which include over 18,000 pro-life doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other medical professionals across the country.
The Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Legal Society represented them in the case.
CMA and AAPLOG, along with the Fellowship of Christian Physician Assistants, are also defending the Weldon Amendment in the California case.
The Weldon amendment was needed because abortion advocates have tried in numerous instances to force health care facilities to do abortions.
In 2003, the ACLU of New Jersey 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.