ACLU and National Abortion Federation Hail Two Appeals Court Rulings Holding Federal Abortion Ban Unconstitutional

January 31, 2006 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The National Abortion Federation (NAF) and the American Civil Liberties Union today praised two rulings holding the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003” unconstitutional. The decisions came out of federal appeals courts in New York and California. These rulings join an Eighth Circuit decision holding the ban unconstitutional.

“We are pleased that both courts have recognized that this ban needs an exception to protect women’s health,” said Vicki Saporta, NAF President and CEO. “Doctors and women should be able to make medical decisions free from interference by politicians.”

In the Second Circuit ruling in New York, the court affirmed that the ban requires a health exception and asked for further legal briefing to determine how to remedy the violation. The Ninth Circuit in California affirmed the lower court decision striking down the ban.

“Every court to have considered this ban has recognized that abortion laws must include protections for women’s health,” said Talcott Camp, Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Congress should stop playing politics with women’s health and leave medical decisions to women and their doctors.”

The Second Circuit case, NAF v. Gonzales, was brought by NAF and seven individual physicians represented by the ACLU, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, ACLU of Illinois, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. The Ninth Circuit case was brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Gonzales) on behalf of Planned Parenthood affiliates throughout the country. In July 2005, the Eighth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling striking down the ban in a challenge brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights (Carhart v. Gonzales). The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to hear that case.

Congress passed the federal ban despite numerous court decisions, including a decision in 2000 by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart, striking down similar state bans. 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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