Partial-birth abortion ban ruled unconstitutional

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – U.S. district Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln, Neb., became the third to rule that the ban on “partial-birth abortions” is unconstitutional. This ruling, the second in six years, came with the realization that the federal law does not provide an exception for protecting a woman’s health.

In his 444 page decision, Kopf said that Congress’ decision was based on political reasons rather than medical. He wrote that Congress’ finding that a health exception was unnecessary was “unreasonable and not supported by substantial evidence.”

Judge Kopf’s ruling followed two similar ones by Judge Richard Conway Casey in New York three weeks ago, and another in June by Judge Phyllis Hamilton in California.

The ban, which was vetoed twice by President Clinton, came as a harsh blow to abortion rights activists when it was passed in November, 2003. It is seen by many as a threat to a woman’s right to chose, which was granted in the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade.

However, the Congress stated under the Partial-Birth Abortion Act that the procedure is “a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary and should be prohibited.”

According to the act, a partial-birth abortion is defined as “an abortion in which a physician delivers an unborn child’s body until only the head remains inside the womb, punctures the back of the child’s skull with a sharp instrument, and sucks the child’s brains out before completing the delivery of the dead infant.”

The Supreme Court found that a partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman, that it poses significant health risks to the woman upon who the procedure is being performed, and is outside the standard of medical care.

Linda Locke, the chief communications officer for American Women’s Services, said that “partial-birth abortion” is not even a medical term, but something that politicians came up with.” Besides the fact that partial-birth abortion is not a medical term, less than one percent of abortions in the U.S. are later procedures, and by law these are the ones performed to protect a woman’s health, or because of birth defects or genetic defects,” she said.

In an earlier ruling by Judge Casey of New York, he found evidence that the procedure can have safety advantages for women. He said that the Supreme Court made it clear that the procedure could be outlawed “only if there exists a medical consensus that there is no circumstance in which any women could potentially benefit from it.”

“In all medical matters, the physician is the expert to determine what procedure is necessary. The right to reproductive freedom was given to us in 1973 with roe v. wade, and I think since then women have proven that we are responsible creatures who can make responsible and sometimes very difficult decisions,” said Locke.

Decisions such as Judge Kopf’s and the previous two serve as hope to abortion rights activists. If more of these bans continue to be passed in states across the country ruling that the law is unconstitutional and presents a danger to women’s health, there is a hope that the law could be overturned by the Supreme Court.

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