"Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003" Faces Challenge; 2003 Law Bans Procedures as Early as 12-15 Weeks

March 29, 2004 12:00 am

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“Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003” Faces Challenge; 2003 Law Bans Procedures as Early as 12-15 Weeks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lawsuits challenging a federal law that bans abortions as early as 12 to 15 weeks in pregnancy begin today in federal courts in New York, San Francisco and Lincoln, Nebraska. The lawsuits are brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Wilmer Cutler Pickering LLP on behalf of the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and other doctors; the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart and other doctors; and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) on behalf of its member affiliates. The defendant is Attorney General John Ashcroft.

2003 LAW BANS PROCEDURES AS EARLY AS 12 TO 15 WEEKS WITH NO HEALTH EXCEPTION TO PROTECT WOMEN’S HEALTH

The 2003 federal ban would outlaw abortions that doctors say are safe and among the best for women’s health in the second trimester. The law defines the term “partial-birth abortion” so broadly that it would prohibit a wide range of abortions performed in the second trimester. The law fails to safeguard women because it does not contain an exception to protect their health.

Doctors and leading medical organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, and the American College of Nurse Practitioners oppose this ban, recognizing that it inappropriately interferes with medical decision-making by forcing doctors to stop using procedures they believe are safest and best for their patients.

THE FEDERAL LAW IS SIMILAR TO THE NEBRASKA LAW STRUCK DOWN BY THE U.S. SUPREME COURT IN 2000

In late 2003, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the “”Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003,”” the first federal law banning abortions as early as 12 to 15 weeks in pregnancy. With the lawsuits filed, courts swiftly blocked enforcement of the federal law in order to protect women’s health while the cases proceed. The court action also protected doctors’ ability to care for their patients. In doing so, the courts recognized the precedent set in 2000 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart, which was argued by the Center for Reproductive Rights. In that decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Nebraska law similar to the federal law was unconstitutional for two important reasons:

  • The Nebraska ban was so broadly worded that it would have prevented doctors from performing procedures used in most second trimester abortions. Thus, the court ruled, the Nebraska ban imposed an undue burden on a woman’s constitutionally protected right to choose abortion.
  • The Nebraska ban, like the federal ban, did not include a health exception to protect women.

The Federal Abortion Ban suffers from these very same flaws.

A brief overview of each trial follows:

New York. The National Abortion Federation and several doctors, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Wilmer Cutler Pickering LLP filed a case, National Abortion Federation v. Ashcroft, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. To learn more about National Abortion Federal v. Ashcroft, go to www­.prochoice.org or http://www­.aclu.org/campaigns/campaignslist.cfm?c=250

California. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, on behalf of its affiliates across the country, and one of its affiliates (Planned Parenthood Golden Gate) filed Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Ashcroft in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The City and County of San Francisco have filed their own lawsuit in the same court. To read more about Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Ashcroft, go to http://www­.plannedparenthood.org/abortionbantrials/

Nebraska. Dr. LeRoy Carhart of Nebraska and three doctors from New York, Virginia, and Iowa, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, filed Carhart v. Ashcroft in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. Dr. Carhart is the same doctor who won in the U.S. Supreme Court case. (Stenberg v. Carhart). To learn more about Carhart v. Ashcroft, go to http://www­.reproductiverights.org/crt_pba.html

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