California asks U.S. judge to allow it to keep
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
January 12, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Lawyers for the state asked a U.S.
district judge in San Francisco today to rule that California
can require emergency abortion care without having to lose $37
billion in federal funding.
The state is challenging the so-called Weldon amendment, a spending
bill provision passed by Congress and signed by President Bush
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
White took the case under submission after hearing an hour of
arguments and will issue a written ruling at a later date.
The amendment bars state governments from discriminating against
hospitals and doctors that refuse to provide abortions. States
violating the law must forfeit an array of federal funding.
Because the spending bill included education and labor as well
as health funding, California could lose a total of $37 billion
per year if found in violation, according to state lawyers.
California claims in a lawsuit filed last year that the measure
is unconstitutional because it doesn't contain an exception for
emergency abortion services.
Muscat said California law allows doctors with conscientious
objections to refuse to provide abortions except in emergencies.
He asked White to rule that the state can enforce the emergency
requirement for one of two reasons -- either because the amendment
is unconstitutional or because a different federal law requires
hospitals and doctors to provide emergency medical care.
U.S. Justice Department attorney James Gilligan argued that the
amendment "doesn't restrict access to abortion.''
The federal attorney said, "All it does is protect the conscience
of doctors who are opposed to abortion.''
Gilligan told the judge the amendment is still in effect in a
continuing spending resolution enacted by Congress to extend through
Feb. 16, but said he didn't know what will happen after that.
The provision is known as the Weldon amendment because it was
co-sponsored by Republican Congressman David Weldon of Florida.
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