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Federal appeals court lets anti-abortion groups join funding lawsuit in California

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday to allow two anti-abortion health care groups to intervene in a California lawsuit [complaint, PDF] regarding the federal Weldon Amendment [backgrounder], which prohibits federal money from going to federal, state and local governments that discriminate against health care service providers not offering abortion [JURIST news archive] services. The California health code may be interpreted to mandate emergency abortion services, so California Attorney General Bill Lockyer [official website] brought the lawsuit [press release] claiming the Weldon Amendment is unconstitutional in an attempt to protect federal funding for those emergency situations.

The Alliance for Catholic Health Care [advocacy website] and the Medical Groups, which represents anti-abortion health organizations, both petitioned to join the Bush administration in defending the amendment, and the three-judge panel of the court allowed the groups to intervene due to the consequences to health care practitioners if the amendment is found to be unconstitutional, saying "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." The court said if Lockyer is successful in his pursuit against the amendment, California will be able to prosecute health care providers that refuse to offer emergency abortion services. Reuters has more.

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