Judge Rejects Lawsuit Seeking to Overturn Federal Abortion Law Protecting Doctors

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 19, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Judge Rejects Lawsuit Seeking to Overturn Federal Abortion Law Protecting Doctors Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 19
, 2008

San Francisco, CA (LifeNews.com) — A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit from the state of California seeking to overturn a federal law protecting pro-life medical clinics and professionals on abortion. The state and pro-abortion groups had challenged the Weldon amendment shortly after Congress approved it but the federal judge said it was premature.

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.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White heard arguments in the case in January 2007 and, on Tuesday, issued a decision saying the lawsuit was premature because the potential conflict hasn’t arisen and may not occur.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, White said there has been no violation of state sovereignty or the so-called right to abortion and that potential violations may never happen.

White also said another federal law that requires federally-funded hospitals to stabilize or transfer a patient with an emergency condition could be used to harmonize the California statute and the Weldon provision.

Ultimately, according to the newspaper, California’s arguments are premature until a woman is denied an abortion supposedly needed in an emergency situation.

Deputy Attorney General Antonette Cordero told the newspaper the state would enforce its law and hope a threat of losing federal dollars wouldn’t occur.

Attorney Timothy Smith, who represented the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other groups backing the Weldon amendment, said he is happy with the ruling.

However, he promised to defend any physician in California who refuses to participate in any abortion should California officials try to discipline them in any way.

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.