Federal Appeals Court Affirms Unconstitutionality of Abortion Procedure Ban

In an important abortion rights win, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld a lower court decision that declared the so-called “Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003” unconstitutional. Signed into law by President Bush in 2003, this abortion procedure ban has since been ruled unconstitutional by three federal judges for failing to include an exception to protect a woman’s health. The decision by the Eighth US Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the ruling of US District Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln, Nebraska. Federal judges in New York and San Francisco have also declared the 2003 ban unconstitutional.

Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights which brought the lawsuit on behalf of Nebraska abortion provider Dr. LeRoy Carhart, said of the decision, “Four federal courts have now exposed this deceptive law for what it is – a dangerous ban that not only fails to protect women’s health, but jeopardizes it. Congress ignored women’s health in passing this law.”

The Bush administration challenged all three initial rulings by federal court judges in Nebraska, New York, and San Francisco and is expected to appeal the Eighth Court’s decision, reports the New York Times. The Justice Department can now appeal the case directly to the Supreme Court. Stenberg v. Carhart, a Supreme Court case involving a similar state abortion procedure ban, was decided in favor of abortion rights by a narrow 5-4 majority in 2000.

“Make no mistake about it, Sandra Day O’Connor was the fifth vote saving abortion rights,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “Now that she has announced her resignation, the rights of women, especially their reproductive rights, are in jeopardy.”

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Associated Press 7/8/05; The New York Times 6/9/05; Center for Reproductive Rights 7/8/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 9/8/04

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