Lawsuits Challenge Partial-Birth Abortion Ban
July 7, 2008
(CNSNews.com) - Three abortion-rights groups filed lawsuits in federal court Friday to block a partial-birth abortion ban even though President Bush has yet to sign it into law.
The legal challenges have been expected for months. By bringing the lawsuits before Bush has signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, the groups are hoping a judge prevents it from taking effect.
"This dangerous ban prevents women, in consultation with their families and doctors, from making decisions about their own health," said Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "We hope the court will recognize the unconstitutionality of this ban and strike it down."
Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit in San Francisco, the American Civil Liberties Union launched its challenge in New York, and the Center for Reproductive Rights is pursuing its case in Nebraska on behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart.
Carhart is the abortionist who successfully challenged Nebraska's law banning partial-birth abortions. The Supreme Court struck down the law in 2000. Now Carhart wants the federal ban to meet the same fate.
"I am challenging this new federal ban for the same reasons I challenged the Nebraska abortion ban: It is an attack on women's right to obtain safe abortions," Carhart said. "As a doctor, it is my duty to use the safest procedures I have available once a patient decides to terminate her pregnancy."
Defenders of the partial-birth abortion ban downplayed the legal challenges. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said it came as no surprise that abortion-rights advocates would bring the lawsuits.
"Since an overwhelming majority of Americans want partial-birth abortion banned, abortion supporters could not get their way in Congress," Perkins said. "As a result, they are now turning to the courts, hoping to find an activist judge who will sanction infanticide."
Concerned Women for America chief counsel Jan LaRue said critics of the ban carefully selected federal courts in Nebraska, New York and San Francisco when filing the lawsuits.
"They're obviously picking venues that they think are the most liberal," LaRue said. "That's the problem when they get to pick the venues."
Meanwhile, critics of the abortion ban said it lacks the necessary health exception to hold up in court, even though the bill allows the procedure to be performed to protect the life of a pregnant mother.
"Outlawing safe medical procedures would force doctors to choose between providing their patients with the best and most appropriate care or going to jail," said Vicki Saporta, president and chief executive of the National Abortion Federation, which is represented by the ACLU.
The bill defines partial-birth abortion as "in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother."
Estimates on the number of partial-birth abortions performed each year vary widely and are disputed by various interest groups.
The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act won approval Oct. 21 after an eight-year struggle by pro-life groups to enact a federal law. Former President Bill Clinton twice vetoed the legislation in the 1990s.
The National Right to Life Committee helped to craft the legislation when it was first introduced in 1995. Douglas Johnson, the group's legislative director, said Friday's move by abortion-rights advocates amounted to a publicity stunt.
"These groups argue that the Constitution guarantees the right to deliver most of a living, pre-mature infant in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy and then shove scissors through her skull," Johnson said.
See Earlier Story:
Partial Birth Abortion Ban OK'd; Awaits Bush's Signature (Oct. 21, 2003)
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