ACLU and National Abortion Federation Call On U.S. Supreme Court to Hold Women’s Health Paramount as Court Agrees to Review Federal Abortion Ban Ruling

February 21, 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  
CONTACT: media@acluorg
       
WASHINGTON - The National Abortion Federation (NAF) and the American Civil Liberties Union today called on the U.S. Supreme Court to hold women’s health paramount as the Court agreed to review a ruling striking down the “Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003.”  Both groups urged the Court to affirm the decision below based on three decades of legal precedent protecting women’s health. 

 

“Every court considering this ban has found that it lacks the necessary protections for women’s health,” said Vicki Saporta, NAF President and CEO.  “Witness after witness in all three legal challenges to the law has made clear that this ban prohibits abortions in the second trimester that doctors say are safe and among the best to protect women’s health.”

Today’s decision by the Court will allow for the review of a July 2005 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in Carhart v. Gonzales.  Brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the case is one of three challenges to the Federal Abortion Ban signed into law by President Bush in 2003.

Late last month, two federal appeals courts also held the ban unconstitutional.  In a challenge brought by NAF and seven individual physicians, represented by the ACLU, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, the ACLU of Illinois, and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NAF v. Gonzales), the Second Circuit affirmed that the ban requires a health exception and asked for further legal briefing to determine how to remedy the violation.  On the same day, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision striking down the ban in a challenge brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (Planned Parenthood v. Gonzales). 

“The Supreme Court struck down a nearly identical state ban only six years ago in part because it failed to include protections for women’s health.  Congress deliberately defied that ruling when it passed the federal ban,” said Talcott Camp, Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.  “In deciding this case, we hope the Court will call on lawmakers to respect the rule of law once and for all: abortion laws must include protections for women’s health.”

Medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose the federal ban.

Congress passed the federal ban despite the numerous court decisions, including a decision in 2000 by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart, striking down similar state bans. Courts have consistently struck down the bans for two reasons: their broad language prohibits abortions as early as 13 weeks in pregnancy, and they lack exceptions to protect women's health.

NAF is 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 United States and work at clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals throughout the country, including premier teaching hospitals.

The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

For more information, visit: www­.federalabortionban.org

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