The state of California is seeking to invalidate a federal law which seeks to protect institutions and caregivers who refuse to participate in abortions. This law is of major importance to. amongst others, the Catholic healthcare system in California.
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.