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Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Communications Department

Closing Arguments in Federal Abortion Ban Trial Heard Today in New York

NEW YORK - Underscoring critical flaws in a federal abortion ban, the American Civil Liberties Union today presented closing arguments in National Abortion Federation v. Ashcroft, telling a federal court here that women and their doctors need to be able to make medical decisions free from interference of politicians.

"The National Abortion Federation brought this lawsuit to safeguard the lives and health of women," said Vicki Saporta, President of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). "The ban puts Congress in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship, where it clearly does not belong."

NAF and seven individual physicians are represented by the ACLU and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in their challenge to the federal ban in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.

"Today's closing arguments underscored critical flaws in this ban: it would prevent doctors from performing a range of abortion procedures in the second trimester, and it makes no exception for women's health," said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "We are confident that the court will recognize that this is a threat to women's heath and a broad attack on abortion in the second trimester."

Earlier this month, a federal court judge in San Francisco struck down the federal abortion ban in a similar challenge brought by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America precisely because it put doctors at risk of violating the law when providing virtually any abortion in the second trimester and because it lacks an exception to protect women's health. Moreover, the court concluded that "the oral testimony [which led to the passage of the ban] before Congress was not only unbalanced, but intentionally polemic."

The Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart and several individual physicians also brought a challenge to the ban in federal court in Nebraska. Closing arguments were heard in that case on June 2nd and a ruling is expected later this summer.

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.

To learn more about all 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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