Abortion Law Protecting Pro-Life Doctors and Hospitals in Legal Limbo

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 7, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Abortion Law Protecting Pro-Life Doctors and Hospitals in Legal Limbo Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 7,
2008

San Francisco, CA (LifeNews.com) — A federal law protecting pro-life medical clinics and professionals on abortion is in legal limbo three years after abortion advocates brought a lawsuit against it. The state of California and pro-abortion groups had challenged the Weldon amendment shortly after Congress approved it and the suit has been held up in court ever since.

The Weldon provision 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.

Lockyer claimed that it contravened a California law requiring medical staff to do abortions in situations where an abortion is supposedly needed to prevent the death of the mother or a major medical emergency.

Both sides argued about the law in front of a federal judge in January 2007, but no decision has been made on it.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White previously asked both sides whether the amendment was still in effect prior to that hearing. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, he made the same query last month.

The newspaper indicated the Weldon amendment is still in effect and part of the budget President Bush signed in December that funds federal agencies through September.

James Sweeney, an attorney for the Christian Medical Association, which won the right to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of pro-life doctors and medical staff, told the newspaper "I have absolutely, utterly no idea" why White hasn’t rendered a decision.

He said White has not requested another trial or additional legal papers and nothing has changed in the facts of the case since the 2006 trial.

Deputy Attorney General Antonette Cordero told the Chronicle that the Weldon law has not yet come in conflict with California’s statute as he knows of no reports of needing to force medical staff to do an abortion in an emergency life or death situation.

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, told LifeNews.com at the time of the hearing.

The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association also challenged the Weldon Amendment in a separate 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 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that NFPRHA lacked standing to challenge the Weldon Amendment.

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.