Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment

Background: A campaign is underway to force Catholic hospitals and other health care institutions to perform or promote abortion. The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) clarifies and strengthens conscience protection language found in current federal law (42 U.S.C. 238n). It expands the definition of the term “health care entity” and extends protection to entities refusing to provide coverage of, or pay for, abortion. In 2002, ANDA passed the House but languished in the Senate. In 2004, a comparable measure, the Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, was passed by the House as part of the Fiscal Year 2005 Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill. The amendment was incorporated into the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4818), which was signed into law on December 8, 2004 (Public Law 108-447).

Judicial: On December 13, 2004, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., claiming that the Hyde/Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment was unconstitutional. On December 20, 2004, Judge Henry Kennedy denied a motion for a temporary restraining order. On January 5, 2005, a hearing was held to consider NFPRHA’s motion for a preliminary injunction. On September 28, 2005, Judge Kennedy ruled against NFPRHA on the merits and denied the motion (NFPRHA v. Gonzales, Civil Action 04-02148). On October 24, 2005, NFPRHA appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

On January 25, 2005, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, also challenging the constitutionality of the Hyde/Weldon amendment. The Alliance of Catholic Health Care and nine other intervenors were denied a motion to intervene. That motion was appealed. The State of California and the federal government, the principals in the case, briefed cross-motions, in anticipation of a summary judgment. State of California ex. rel. Bill Lockyer, et al., v. United States, et al. (Civ. No. C-05-00328 JSW (N.D.Ca)).