ACLU Denounces House Passage of Safe Abortion Procedures Ban; Says Lawsuit Planned To Protect Women and Doctors

June 5, 2003 12:00 am

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

“Misinformation fueled this bill’s passage,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “In their zeal to promote a narrow and unpopular agenda, 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.

The ban on safe abortion procedures passed today in the House by a roll-call vote of 282 to 139, with five Republicans voting against and 62 Democrats casting their ballots in favor. The Senate passed a nearly identical measure in early March. President Bush has made it clear that he will sign the bill into law.

The ACLU said the House measure is effectively no different from a Nebraska law invalidated by the United States 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.

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

The bill that passed the House today is so broadly worded that, like many of the bans that have been struck down throughout the country, it makes 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. House members rejected by a vote of 256 to 165 an amendment that would have added a health exception to the ban.

“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.”

The ACLU’s letter to the House on the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 2003” can be found at: /ReproductiveRights/ReproductiveRights.cfm?ID=12813&c=143

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