The 4th Circuit Upholds the Law: Carhart is Not Carte Blanche

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., struck down a law — the “Partial Birth Infanticide Act” — that would have made it virtually impossible for doctors to perform second-trimester abortions in the state regardless of whether a woman’s health was threatened.

If the law sounds familiar, it should. It is yet another iteration of the federal “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act” that the U.S. Supreme Court misguidedly upheld last year in Gonzales v. Carhart. Like the federal law, Virginia’s fails to include any exceptions to protect women’s health. But as last week’s court held, the Virginia law goes even further than the federal ban, which proved to be its fatal constitutional flaw.

While the Supreme Court’s decision in Carhart dealt a devastating blow to women’s health, reproductive rights, and equality, last week’s decision (PDF) shows that there are still limits to how far politicians can go in passing new and far-reaching abortion restrictions. Notably, this was the second federal appeals court to find a state ban too extreme in light of Carhart. In June of last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Michigan’s third attempt at an abortion methods ban, the Legal Birth Definition Act. That law would have banned the most commonly used abortion methods in the first and second trimesters. In its ruling, the court held that the Michigan language “pushed almost every boundary that the Supreme Court has imposed for these types of laws.”

We are gratified to see that even in the post-Carhart world, there are limits to how far legislatures can go in disregarding women’s health and reproductive freedom. The Fourth and Sixth Circuits understand that last year's Carhart decision — as devastating as it was — does not give states carte blanche to eliminate nearly all second-trimester abortion care. It is our hope that legislators in Virginia, Michigan, and all across the country will take note of these important rulings and put an end to their on-going attempts to interfere in a woman’s most personal and private medical decisions.

Add a comment (4)
Read the Terms of Use


The ACLU brings me to tears, and not in a good way.....


The ACLU doesn't seem to have any interest in defending rights clearly granted by the constitution (the 2nd amendment comes to mind) but a right engineered by the Court is of the highest priority. Very impressive.

Angel Kirkland,...

Abortion should be banned due to the damaging effects it has on women who go through with the procedure. Women should be intelligent enough to realize that abortion poses more health risks, both mental and physical then not having the procedure. Rape victims often feel worse about the rape after killing the baby. Guilt plagues them for years, possibly the rest of their lives. Suicide rates go up for rape victims if they have abortions. This is America, and women should be allowed to choose, however women are not properly informed about the effects, how about we put our attention to informing, instead of trying to legalize the murder of infants right after birth.


When is the ACLU going to champion itself for the rights of the baby? Don't give me, "It's not a baby, it's a fetus" baloney. Who took it upon themselves to declare when it is? You carry the banner for people who are not U.S. citizens, claiming they should be granted the same rights. We should follow the "Golden Rule" when we deal with all peoples of the world. But not for babies. Let's cut them out like a tumor. I defy you to present a sound arguement as to why an unborn child is not granted the same rights. As for the rape victim arguement, I don't think I would be out of line if I equated the unborn child of a rape victim to the collateral damage that occurs in any overseas engagement that we wrongly or justifieably commit ourselves to. What ever happen to detering the rapist? What was wrong with giving criminals a pile of boulders and a sledgehammer and telling them to make gravel? What about surgically castrating the repeat rapist? No, that would be too harsh! We gotta protect those who victimize innocent people. Let's admit it, you have your own agenda that stretches far beyond a handful of personal liberties.
FYI, I live in a progressive city and even the progressives are starting to get PO'd about the directions things are heading.

Sign Up for Breaking News