SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The State of California’s challenge to a federal anti-abortion law – the Weldon Amendment – is not ripe for review, a federal judge ruled. “Although the Court recognizes the importance of the issues before it, and the serious potential consequences if a woman were to be denied necessary medical services in an emergency, as currently presented the Court cannot reach the merits of this matter,” U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled in granting the federal government’s cross-motion for summary judgment.
California law requires health care facilities that provide emergency services to provide medically necessary emergency abortions. Congress’ Weldon Amendment prohibits federal funding of any state or local government “if such … government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
The Weldon Amendment, part of Congress’ 2005 Appropriations Act (PL No. 108-447, 118 Stat. 2809, 3163) was re-enacted in subsequent appropriations bills and remains in effect. California contends that because the Weldon Amendment does not contain an explicit exception for situations in which an emergency is necessary to protect a woman’s health or life, it violates the state’s interest. California sought summary judgment that the amendment violates the Constitution’s Spending Clause and a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.
Defendants cross-moved for summary judgment on the constitutionality of the amendment, and argued that the action should be dismissed for lack of standing and ripeness.
Judge White concluded: “Plaintiffs’ claims will not be ripe until a woman needs but is refused emergency abortion-related services, and the federal government denies or threatens to deny California federal funds as a result. … (U)ntil then, and because it is not clear that such an unfortunate situation would ever occur, this matter is not yet ripe.”