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Tuesday, June 1, 2004


Communications Department

Reproductive Rights Groups Hail First Ruling to Permanently Block Federal Abortion Ban

SAN FRANCISCO - The National Abortion Federation, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union praised today's ruling by a federal court judge in San Francisco striking down the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003." Today's decision was the first to permanently enjoin the sweeping ban, which was challenged in three federal courts late last year.

"We are pleased that the court in San Francisco recognized that this ban is a broad attack on abortion beginning as early as 13 weeks in pregnancy," said Vicki Saporta, NAF President and CEO. "Today's ruling underscores the necessity of allowing women and their doctors to make medical decisions free from the interference of politicians."

NAF and seven individual physicians are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Wilmer Cutler Pickering LLP in their challenge to the federal ban in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York. Closing arguments are scheduled to take place in NAF v. Ashcroft on June 22nd.

"The court in San Francisco recognized this federal ban for what it is: a threat to women's health. The court understood that the government has no business trying to come between doctors and their patients and telling doctors that they can't put their patients' health and safety first," said Dr. LeRoy Carhart, lead plaintiff in a Nebraska challenge to the federal law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a challenge to the law on behalf of Dr. Carhart and three other physicians in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. Dr. Carhart is the physician who won a challenge to a state ban before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, also argued by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Closing arguments in Carhart v. Ashcroft are scheduled to take place tomorrow.

"Today's decision acknowledges what doctors testified, day after day, in all three challenges to the federal abortion ban: this law would interfere with their ability to provide their patients with safe and medically appropriate care after the first trimester," said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

In today's ruling the court concludes that the law creates a risk of criminal liability for physicians "during virtually all abortions performed after the first trimester."

"Today's ruling confirms that the federal ban, like the Nebraska ban struck down by the Supreme Court just four years ago, dangerously prohibits abortions in the second trimester that doctors say are safe and among the best to protect women's health," said Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "In passing such a sweeping measure and in failing to include an exception to protect women's health, lawmakers showed a total disregard for women's health and the law."

NAF is the professional association of abortion providers in the United States and Canada. NAF members care for more than half the women who choose abortion each year in the U.S. and include clinics, doctor's offices, and hospitals, including premier teaching hospitals.

The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is a legal advocacy organization dedicated to promoting and defending women's reproductive rights worldwide.

For more information about the three legal challenges to the federal abortion ban go to: www.federalabortionban.org.


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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