As President Set to Sign First-Ever Federal Ban on Safe Abortion Procedures; ACLU Takes Fight to Courts to Protect Women and Doctors

November 5, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union decried President Bush’s willingness to sign today the so-called “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003,” calling the bill a deceptive and dangerous measure that sacrifices women’s health and rights for political gain. The ACLU has already filed a lawsuit to protect women and their doctors. A hearing will be held in federal court on that lawsuit minutes after the signing ceremony.

“Misinformation has paved the way for passage of this bill from the beginning,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Anti-choice lawmakers have used inaccurate and inflammatory rhetoric to hide the fact that this ban will prohibit safe abortion procedures used well before fetal viability, including the procedure used for 90 percent of abortions after the first trimester.”

The ACLU challenged the ban on behalf of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers in North America. NAF members care for more than half the women who choose abortion each year in the U.S. and work at clinics, doctor’s offices, and hospitals throughout the country, including premier teaching hospitals.

The law is scheduled to take effect at 12:01 am on November 6. In today’s hearing, the ACLU will ask the court to block the law’s enforcement before it can harm women and their doctors.

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 most abortions after the first trimester, and because it failed to include a health exception. The federal ban signed today suffers from the same two fatal flaws, the ACLU said.

“This ban is yet another instance of the federal government inappropriately interfering in the private lives of Americans,” Nojeim said. “The Supreme Court has already made clear that these bans endanger women’s health and violate their rights. The federal government has no business making criminals out of doctors and flouting the Supreme Court.”

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.

Today’s court hearing will take place in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York before the Honorable Richard Conway Casey.

The ACLU’s comments from a press conference announcing the lawsuit can be found at:

For more information on the ACLU’s challenge to this broad and dangerous ban go to:

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