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

September 17, 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 one step closer to becoming law today, callously disregards women’s health in pursuit of an extreme anti-choice agenda. The ACLU said it plans an immediate legal challenge to the ban 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 chambers of Congress passed nearly identical measures banning safe abortion procedures earlier this year. A conference committee is needed to resolve the minor differences between the two bills. Today’s unanimous 93 to 0 vote in the Senate made reconciliation imminent. President Bush has said he will sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.

The ACLU said the ban in question 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.

“Lawmakers should not be playing politics with women’s health,” Murphy said. “The Supreme Court has already made clear that these bans endanger women’s health and violate their right. Make no mistake, Congress has done nothing to address these flaws in the current ban.”

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 being sent to a House-Senate conference committee is worded so broadly that — like the other 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.

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