Judge Hears State Challenge to Federal Abortion Provisions
A federal judge in San Francisco on Friday heard arguments in a case in which the state alleges that enforcing a provision of a 2005 federal spending bill related to abortion services is unconstitutional, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/13).
The Hyde-Weldon Amendment to the fiscal year 2005 federal omnibus appropriations bill bars federal, state or local agencies from requiring physicians, hospitals, health insurers, HMOs or other health care entities to provide abortion services or referrals.
The amendment affects all states but mostly California and others that use state funds to finance abortion-related services for Medicaid beneficiaries. Forty-five states currently allow health care providers to refuse to offer abortion services without penalty.
Under the provision, states that enforce laws relating to the provision of abortion services against hospitals, clinics and insurers that oppose abortion will become ineligible for some federal funds for education, labor, health and human services programs.
Former Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) in 2005 filed suit against the Bush administration claiming that the amendment is unconstitutional (California Healthline, 1/26/2005).
California could lose $37 billion in funding if it declines to enforce the amendment's provisions, according to the Chronicle.
U.S. Department of Justice Attorney James Gilligan said the amendment would lapse on Feb. 15 when a federal stopgap funding measure is scheduled to expire. He said it is unclear whether the amendment would remain in effect after that date.
California is the only state to have challenged the amendment. California law requires hospitals or clinics to provide abortion services in emergency situations.
Gilligan said California's lawsuit is premature because the state is not facing an imminent loss of federal funding.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White "did not indicate how or when he would rule," the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/13).