ACLU and National Abortion Federation Call on U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Women’s Health in Challenge to the Federal Abortion Ban

August 11, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Federation (NAF) today submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court calling on the Court to protect women’s health when it hears argument next term in a challenge to the Federal Abortion Ban. Both groups urged the Supreme Court to affirm lower court decisions striking down the ban.

“The Federal Abortion Ban prohibits abortions as early as 13 weeks in pregnancy that doctors say are safe and among the best to protect women’s health,” said Vicki Saporta, NAF President and CEO. “We hope that the Supreme Court will recognize the danger this ban poses to women’s health and allow doctors to continue to make appropriate medical decisions.”

The Supreme Court is set to review two challenges to the Federal Abortion Ban – called the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act by its sponsors – during the 2006-2007 term: Gonzales v. Carhart, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart and three other physicians and decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in July 2005, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of its affiliates throughout the country and decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in October 2005. Both circuit courts held the ban unconstitutional.

A third challenge to the Federal Abortion Ban, NAF v. Gonzales, was brought by NAF and seven individual physicians, represented by the ACLU, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, the ACLU of Illinois, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. In January 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed that the ban requires a health exception and asked for further legal briefing to determine how to remedy the violation. That case is now on hold as the other two cases go to the Supreme Court.

“Decisions involving pregnancy and medical care are among the most serious a woman will make in her life,” said Talcott Camp, Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “These are personal decisions for a woman, her family, and her doctor to make and such decisions should not be mandated by politicians.”

Medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose the federal ban.

Congress passed the federal ban and President Bush signed it into law in 2003, despite the numerous court decisions striking down similar state bans, including a decision in 2000 by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart. Courts have consistently struck down the bans for two reasons: their broad language prohibits abortions as early as 13 weeks in pregnancy, and they lack exceptions to protect women’s health.

NAF is the professional association of abortion providers in the United States and Canada. NAF members care for more than half the women who choose abortion each year in the United States and work at clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals throughout the country, including premier teaching hospitals.

The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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