Court Decision on Ohio Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Helps Federal Case

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 18, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Court Decision on Ohio Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Helps Federal Case

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 18, 2003

Cincinnati, OH ( — The decision yesterday by a panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is giving pro-life advocates hope that the courts will look favorably on the federal partial-birth abortion ban that is scheduled to be heard in court hearings next March.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortions on a 5-4 vote, with the majority saying the ban was unconstitutional because it lacked a health exception.

However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did not say a health exception was required in a partial-birth abortion ban.

Furthermore, members of Congress responded to the Supreme Court decision by crafting a more precise bill and including a lengthy medical findings section declaring that partial-birth abortions are never necessary to protect a mother’s health.

Pro-life groups say the Ohio decision bodes well for their efforts to defend the federal ban.

James Bopp, Jr., General Counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, said, “The court rejected — as most Americans reject — the outrageous claim by pro-abortion advocates that the Constitution guarantees a right to kill a child who is hanging halfway outside the mother’s body for negligible and transient health reasons.”

Mark Lally, legislative counsel for Ohio Right to Life, agreed.

"In holding that the Constitution does not require a wide-open health exception, this two-judge majority takes a different tack than many other lower federal courts have," Lally told

Though the pro-abortion lawsuits against the ban will begin in lower courts, they will likely ultimately be combined into one case and be decided by the Supreme Court.

One of the concerns the Supreme Court has had is that the ban would prohibit more abortion procedures than just the partial-birth abortion method. Abortion advocates have also complained that the ban imposes an “undue burden” upon a woman seeking an abortion.

However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel disagreed and said the ban applied to only one abortion method.

"[W]e reject both claims, and hold that Ohio’s new statute does not violate the Constitution in any respect," the panel’s majority wrote.

Their decision also helps pro-life advocates in Michigan who are collecting signatures for a citizens petition to overturn pro-abortion Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s veto of a bill that would essentially ban partial-birth abortions there.

"The Michigan Catholic Conference applauds today’s decision by the Sixth Circuit Court to uphold Ohio’s partial-birth abortion ban law," said Sister Monica Kostielney, R.S.M. "The federal courts have set precedent for the future defense of such necessary and life-saving legislation, which is wonderful news for the State of Michigan and the impending ‘People’s Override’ campaign."

Michigan is one of the states in the Sixth Circuit.

The Ohio Department of Health reports that 278 partial-birth abortions were performed in 2000 alone. The Department of Community Health reported similar numbers in Michigan in 2002, where 237 late-term abortions were performed.

Related web sites:
U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision –