Wednesday, September 8, 2004
The lawsuit was brought by four physicians.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- A federal judge ruled the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional today because it does not include exceptions when a woman's health is in danger.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln followed similar decisions earlier in two other cases.
The abortion ban was signed last year by President Bush but was not enforced because judges in Lincoln, New York and San Francisco agreed to hear evidence in three simultaneous nonjury trials on whether it violates the Constitution.
The rulings are expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The federal law bars a procedure doctors call "intact dilation and extraction," or D & amp;X, and opponents call partial-birth abortion.
How it's done
During the procedure, generally performed in the second trimester, a fetus is partially removed from the womb and its skull is punctured or crushed.
The Nebraska lawsuit was filed by New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of abortion provider Dr. LeRoy Carhart and three other physicians. Carhart brought an earlier challenge that led the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 to overturn a similar abortion ban that was adopted by Nebraska lawmakers.
Dr. Carhart and his lawyers said the federal law is vague and could be interpreted as covering more common, less controversial procedures, including "dilatation and evacuation," the most common method of second-trimester abortion.
A total of 1.3 million abortions are performed in the United States each year. Almost 90 percent occur in the first trimester.
An estimated 140,000 D & amp;Es take place in the United States annually, compared with an estimated 2,200 to 5,000 D & amp;X procedures.
Must include exception
Last month, U.S. District Judge Richard C. Casey in Manhattan said the Supreme Court has made it clear that a law that prohibits the performance of a particular abortion procedure must include an exception to preserve a woman's life and health.
In June, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco also found the law unconstitutional, saying it "poses an undue burden on a woman's right to choose an abortion."
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