ACLU Decries Federal Ban on Safe Abortion Procedures; Promises Lawsuit to Protect Women and Doctors

September 16, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today warned that the misleadingly named “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003,” which moved closer to passage with a debate today in the Senate, callously disregards women’s health in pursuit of an extreme anti-choice agenda. The ACLU said will challenge the ban in court to protect women and doctors.

“”Misinformation has fueled this bill at every turn,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “Anti-choice lawmakers have used inaccurate and inflammatory rhetoric to hide the fact that this ban will prohibit proven and safe abortion procedures used throughout the second trimester of pregnancy, well before fetal viability.”

The ACLU will file a lawsuit challenging the ban on behalf of the National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortion providers whose members perform more than half of the abortions conducted each year in this country and who work at clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals throughout the United States and Canada, including premier teaching hospitals.

Both houses of Congress passed nearly identical measures banning safe abortion procedures earlier this year. Today’s debate was the first step toward reconciling the two versions. President Bush has said he will sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.

The ACLU said the measure debated today is effectively no different from a Nebraska law invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court just three years ago. In that case, the Court struck down Nebraska’s ban because it was written so broadly that it criminalized a range of abortion procedures, including the procedure used to perform the overwhelming majority of abortions after the first trimester, and because it failed to include a health exception.

Since 1995, in addition to Nebraska, 30 other states have tried to enact similar bans. In every state where the bans have been challenged, the courts have declared the laws unconstitutional and blocked enforcement.

The measure soon to be sent to a House-Senate conference committee for reconciliation is worded so broadly that — like many of the bans that have been struck down throughout the country – it would make it a crime for doctors to perform the safest and most common abortion procedures used after the first trimester. Likewise, it fails to include an exception that would allow these procedures when the health of the woman is endangered.

“It is unconscionable for lawmakers to play fast and loose with women’s health and blatantly disregard the Constitution,” Murphy said. “This is a clear case of Congress overstepping its bounds by interfering with doctors’ ability to care for their patients.”

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