Second judge strikes down late-term abortion ban

By Patricia Hurtado
Seattle Times

August 27, 2004

NEW YORK A federal judge yesterday struck down the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act as unconstitutional, saying it fails to provide an exception to preserve a woman's health.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Casey labeled the procedure gruesome, but he concluded in a 92-page ruling that prior Supreme Court decisions have made it clear that the law prohibits a particular abortion procedure that does not include an exception to preserve a woman's life and health.

The procedure is known to doctors as intact dilation and extraction. The fetus is partially removed from the womb, and the skull is punctured or crushed.

The decision by Casey, who granted a permanent injunction preventing the act from going into effect, is the latest against a law that was signed by President Bush in November. The ban has never gone into effect.

In June, a federal judge in California declared the act unconstitutional. A decision is pending in a Nebraska federal court.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said yesterday that the Justice Department has filed an appeal in the California case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He said that appeal should cover issues raised in the New York case.

In issuing his decision, Casey challenged Congress' conclusion that there is no significant body of medical opinion arguing the procedure has safety advantages.

"This court heard more evidence during its trial than Congress heard over the span of eight years," he wrote. "Even the government's own experts disagreed with almost all of Congress' factual findings."

Seven physicians, the National Abortion Federation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union brought the New York case. They hailed Casey's verdict yesterday.

"The Supreme Court has been very clear that a health exception is required," said Rebekah Diller, director of the Reproductive Rights Project at the NYCLU. "We're extremely pleased that the court recognized that the ban was a danger to women's health."

The description of the procedure was provided by The Associated Press.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company



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