Federal Judge Blocks Virginia's Abortion Procedures Ban
Responding to an injunction filed by abortion rights advocates, a federal judge blocked a recently passed Virginia law banning so-called "partial-birth infanticide" beginning July 1, the day the law was to take effect. The request for an injunction was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which argued that the law is unconstitutional because it does not include an exception to protect the woman's health. The US Supreme Court struck down a similar Nebraska abortion ban in 2000 for that very reason in Stenberg v. Carhart. In addition, the law is so vaguely worded it would ban safe and common procedures used in the second trimester. "We're happy that women's rights are protected, at least for now," Suzanne Novak, the CRR attorney who argued the case, told the Washington Post. "If the Virginia General Assembly wants to pass unconstitutional laws, they will be struck down." The injunction is scheduled to be in effect until a trial date set for Nov. 4.
Virginia's attorney general, Jerry Kilgore (R), has vowed to reinstate the law, according to the Virginian Pilot. However, US District Court Judge Richard Williams called this a "no-brain case," because similar bans have already been found unconstitutional, including a 1998 Virginia law. In addition, current Virginia law bans all abortions in the third trimester unless the attending physician and two other doctors certify in writing that carrying the pregnancy to term will lead to the death of the mother or will severely harm her physical or mental health, according to CRR.
The Virginia law bans what abortion opponents have misleadingly labeled "partial-birth" abortion, a non medical term referring to a rarely used procedure called intact dilation and extraction (D&X). Although these kinds of laws claim to ban only D&X, they are typically so vaguely worded that they would prohibit safe and common techniques used in earlier stages of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which represents over 90 percent of all obstetricians and gynecologists, has called these bans "inappropriate, ill advised, and dangerous."
LEARN MORE Read the transcript of an online chat with CRR President Nancy Northrup
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Media Resources: Virginian Pilot 7/3/03; Washington Post 7/2/03; CRR release 7/1/03; Feminist Daily News Wire