Christian doctors are in federal court to defend their right to refuse to provide abortions and abortion referrals.

The Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Legal Society filed a motion to intervene Thursday in San Francisco in a lawsuit brought by the state of California against the U.S. government.

“Forcing pro-life health-care workers to provide abortion services is hardly ‘pro-choice,'” said Steven H. Aden, chief litigation counsel of the Christian Legal Society Center for Law & Religious Freedom.

The case was initiated by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who filed suit against the U.S. government in January, claiming the recently passed Weldon Amendment is unconstitutional.

The December 2004 amendment, signed by President Bush, forbids state and local governments that receive federal funds from discriminating against health-care providers because they refuse to perform or refer patients for abortions.

California says it would require the physicians to offer abortions only in “emergency” cases.

But Aden argues the problem is that state law assumes every abortion after viability is a “medically necessary” abortion. Therefore, it’s always an “emergency” because there is always some risk to the mother’s life or health in carrying a pregnancy to term.

ADF and CLS filed the motion on behalf of members of the Christian Medical Association; the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists; and the Fellowship of Christian Physicians Assistants.

The three groups are asking the court to allow them to enter the case as defendants in order to protect their members’ interests.

“California is trying to use this lawsuit not only to strike down the Weldon Amendment but also to take steps to completely nullify any right of conscience in California,” Aden said. “Congress overwhelmingly passed this amendment to protect pro-life doctors and nurses from this very thing.”

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