Virginia Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Declared Unconstitutional

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 3, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Virginia Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Declared Unconstitutional

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 3, 2004

Richmond, VA ( — A federal judge has declared a Virginia law banning partial-birth abortions unconstitutional, saying the law was too vague, violated women’s right to privacy, and failed to include a health exception. Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore was not surprised by the decision and says the state will appeal.

U.S. District Judge Richard Williams said the law was "impermissibly void for vagueness." He originally blocked the law in July and issued a permanent injunction against it in his latest ruling.

Virginia legislators attempted to definite partial-birth abortions as infanticides and Williams challenged that terminology, calling it an attempt to alarm the public.

"This ruling is not surprising, given the number of times we have had to appeal rulings on similar legislation to higher courts," Kilgore said.

Kilgore, has promised to "vigorously defend" the law, which he says was carefully crafted in order to make the constitutionality issue moot.

"It’s a very sad situation that babies in the process of being born have their brains suctioned out and that some factions of abortion advocates want to keep the killing legal," Brenda Fastabend, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, told

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion New York-based law firm, filed suit against the law on behalf of a well-known Richmond abortion practitioner. The firm claimed the law violated the Carhart v. Stenberg Supreme Court decision which found a Nebraska partial-birth abortion ban unconstitutional because it lacked a health exception — even though the Virginia law was written differently.

Pro-life groups oppose the inclusion of health exceptions in pro-life legislation because they allow all abortions to remain legal as an abortion practitioner can define any abortion as necessary to protect a mother’s health.

A number of reputable doctors’ groups have said the practice of partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary for a mother.

Williams agreed with abortion advocates that the law’s vagueness would expose abortion practitioners to prosecution if they performed other types of abortions, despite the carefully-worded definition of partial-birth abortions in the legislation.

Federal courts will weigh pro-abortion challenges to the federal ban on partial-birth abortions signed late last year by President Bush. The hearings on the lawsuits are expected in late March.

More than half of the states have passed partial-birth abortion bans, although a number of the bans have been overturned in court. It’s been estimated that partial-birth abortions are performed as many as 5,000 times a year, mostly on healthy babies of healthy mothers.

Public opinion polls show that a ban is supported by a vast majority of the American people.

Related web sites:
Virginia Society for Human Life –