ABORTION LAW 1 of 3 trials nears end in San Francisco

Abortion providers are trying to block the ban from going into effect.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Closing arguments began Friday in one of three federal trials considering challenges to a new law banning certain kinds of abortions, after three weeks of graphic and conflicting medical testimony.
The federal lawsuit in San Francisco was brought by abortion providers seeking to permanently block the Partial-Birth Abortion Act, which President Bush signed last year.
"This constitutes a burden on a woman's right to choose," Planned Parenthood attorney Eve Gartner told U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton as closing arguments began in the San Francisco case.
Federal judges in Lincoln, Neb., New York and San Francisco blocked the act from being enforced pending the outcome of the court challenges.
The law carries two-year prison terms for doctors and is the first substantial federal limitation on abortion since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion three decades ago.
The judges, who began hearing the cases March 29, must decide whether the ban violates the Constitution. The New York case is continuing, and closing arguments in the Nebraska case set for June. The issue is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Differing views
In the banned procedure, a doctor partially removes a living fetus from the womb before puncturing or crushing its skull.
During the weeks of testimony, doctors testifying on behalf of Congress said the method is never medically necessary, possibly harmful to women and verges on infanticide. Witnesses for the plaintiffs testified that the banned method is often preferred and sometimes necessary to preserve a woman's health.
Congressional sponsors said the ban would outlaw only 2,200 or so abortions a year. But abortion rights advocates said the law endangers almost all second-trimester abortions, or 10 percent of the nation's 1.3 million annual abortions.
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