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National NOW Times >> Fall 2004 >> Article

Abortion Procedures Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

by Michele Keller, Internet Communications Manager

Shortly after George W. Bush signed the so-called "Partial-Birth" Abortion Ban into law Nov. 5, 2003, three federal judges issued temporary injunctions to prevent the law from taking effect.

After full trials, the three district court judges in New York, Nebraska and California all ruled the ban unconstitutional because it failed to provide an exception to protect the woman's health, as required by the Supreme Court. This was a major victory for women, and these judgments ensure, for the time being, that this callous ban will not further injure women's lives, health and rights.

The first decision was announced June 1 by U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, who ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Ashcroft that the ban was an unconstitutional limitation on a woman's reproductive freedom and could not be enforced.

Judge Hamilton noted that the Bush administration had passed this extreme legislation with complete disregard for women's health. The law would have barred safe abortions as early as 13 weeks by prohibiting a medical procedure regarded as among the most effective in preserving a woman's health and future fertility. U.S. District Judge Richard Casey, ruling in National Abortion Federation v. Ashcroft, struck down the ban as well Aug. 26, saying it failed to provide an exception to protect a woman’s health.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf in Carhart v. Ashcroft issued a 476-page ruling Sept. 8. Kopf called the ban unconstitutional because the abortion methods it bars are necessary when a woman's health is in jeopardy.

Women's rights leaders applauded all three judges for rejecting the cruel law. Their actions demonstrate the importance of keeping the federal courts from falling into the hands of religious and political extremists such as those nominated by George W. Bush.

"Women and their doctors must be allowed to make medical decisions free from the interference and agendas of politicians," said NOW President Kim Gandy.

"The Bush administration's attempt to outlaw a proven, medically-safe procedure shows they will stop at nothing to reverse abortion rights granted by Roe v. Wade."

In early August, the Bush administration appealed the San Francisco court's decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal—an appeal that the administration reportedly believes will cover issues raised in the New York and Nebraska cases.

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