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March 29, 2000


Communications Department

Leading Women's Health Care Organizations File Amicus Brief in Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court Case on Nebraska's So-Called "Partial-Birth Abortion" Ban

Five leading women's health care organizations filed an amicus brief today in support of Dr. Carhart in the Supreme Court case Stenberg v. Carhart. According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women's Association, the American Nurses Association, and Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, the Nebraska "partial-birth abortion" ban should be struck down by the Supreme Court because it is unconstitutionally vague, imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to seek an abortion, threatens women's health, and lacks exceptions to protect a woman's health and to save her life.

"The Court's decision in Stenberg v. Carhart could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade," said Vicki Saporta, Executive Director of NAF. "Nebraska's abortion ban criminalizes virtually all abortion procedures, including those provided in the first trimester of pregnancy. The public has been duped into believing that this ban outlaws only one abortion procedure used later in pregnancy, but medical experts have testified that the ban's language is so vague that it would outlaw the safest and most commonly provided abortion procedures."

As the five organizations state in the amicus brief, "The Act - and others like it throughout the country - is so hopelessly vague that the physicians subject to its terms cannot know what it prohibits...Neither the term 'partial-birth abortion' nor the words used to define it provide meaningful guidance to physicians who must comply with the Act under the threat of felony prosecution and forfeiture of their medical licenses." However, "to the extent that the Act can be understood by physicians who provide abortions, its language, on its face, criminalizes safe and common abortion procedures used throughout pregnancy." The brief also asserts, "By precluding a woman, in consultation with her physician, from choosing the most appropriate abortion procedure for her particular health circumstances, the Act places a substantial - and thus unconstitutional - obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion."

"Doctors, not legislators, should make health care decisions," said Saporta. "A physician in the operating room shouldn't have to call his or her legislator for permission to provide appropriate medical care to a patient."

"We are hopeful that the Court will strike down the Nebraska ban. Until then, the ability of women and families to make their own private medical decisions, in consultation with their physician, hangs in the balance." Stenberg v. Carhart will be argued on April 25, with a decision expected this summer.


The National Abortion Federation is the professional association of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to ensuring that abortion remains safe, legal and accessible.

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