Late-Term Abortion Ban Ruled Unconstitutional in Virginia

On Friday, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down a Virginia abortion procedure ban that not only restricted a woman’s right to abortion but posed a threat to women’s health. The ban would have made it a crime to perform what it called “partial birth infanticide.” The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which filed the lawsuit in June of 2003 on behalf of the Richmond Medical Center for Women and Dr. William Fitzhugh, argued that the term “partial birth infanticide,” which is not a medical term, is defined in the law so vaguely that it could be illegal for doctors to perform common second or even first trimester abortions. Further, the law fails to provide an exception to protect a woman’s health.

In a 2-1 ruling, the panel declared the law unconstitutional. The court stated in its decision that “the lack of a health exception alone provides a sufficient basis for invalidating restrictions on a woman’s right to have an abortion,” reports CRR. The law passed in 2003 was initially vetoed by Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D), but the legislature overrode his veto. Friday’s ruling upholds a lower court’s decision that struck down the law last year. In 2000, the US Supreme Court ruled a similar measure unconstitutional in Nebraska in Stenberg v. Carhart. A federal abortion procedure ban signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003 has since been struck down by three federal courts.

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Center for Reproductive Rights 6/2/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 12/2/03; Feminist Daily News Wire 8/8/04;Washington Post 6/4/05

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