Trials in three states began yesterday to determine the constitutionality of the federal abortion procedures ban signed into law last year. The law was immediately challenged by abortion rights groups and enjoined by federal judges in San Francisco, New York, and Lincoln, Nebraska. The federal law is similar to a Nebraska state law that was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2000. Like the Nebraska law, the federal ban contains vague, non-medical descriptions of steps that could occur in any second trimester abortion and it lacks an exception to protect the woman’s health. Supporters of the federal abortion procedures ban claim a health exception is not necessary.
Women’s health advocates argue that the law is so vaguely worded as to be open to a broad interpretation. Attorney A. Stephen Hut Jr., opening his case for the plaintiffs in New York, said that the law “in its stunning breadth would É remove the range of abortion alternatives available to women in the second trimester,” according to the Associated Press. Dr. Maureen Paul, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, one of the plaintiffs in the San Francisco case, testified that “My overriding concern is that if I continue to practice second-trimester abortions in the way that I consider safe for women, I could be in prison,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
To raise awareness about this and other threats to women’s reproductive rights and health, and to make visible the majority in the US that supports abortion rights, the Feminist Majority and other leading women’s rights groups are holding the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, DC on Sunday, April 25. “We can and must fight back against those who would drive women into the back alleys and out of the halls of power” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “Women and the men who love them must march as if their lives depend on it – because they do. If the right-wing has its way, U.S. women will join the 510,000 women worldwide who die each year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, much of it due to lack of access to safe, legal abortion and birth control.”
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