Partial-Birth Abortion Judge Offers to Have Medical Expert Weigh In

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 9, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Partial-Birth Abortion Judge Offers to Have Medical Expert Weigh In

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 9, 2004

Lincoln, NE ( — One of the three judges presiding over the lawsuits seeking to overturn the ban on partial-birth abortions has offered to let a medical expert help him decide whether the ban should be overturned. The decision follows concerns that he may be biased in the case.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf made the announcement shortly before the Justice Department was expected to call its last witness, according to an Associated Press report.

Kopf said he would consider appointing an outside expert to help adjudicate the case and said he would work with both sides to find someone suitable.

He also said that he was not inclined to do this if either party objected to it. Judge Kopf made the same offer shortly after the case was filed last year. At that point, both parties rejected it.

It is not uncommon for a judge to appoint experts to assist the court in cases involving complicated technical or medical issues.

Kopf’s decision follows comments by a pro-life congressman who is concerned about judicial activism in the case.

On Tuesday, at a press conference once the steps of the federal courthouse, pro-life Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said Congress may have to "rein in a runaway judiciary" if the judges overturn the law.

King wants the judges to give consideration to a findings section in the bill that provides scientific evidence as to why such abortions hurt, not help women. The data shows the Supreme Court was wrong in 2000 to overturn a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortions for lacking a health exception.

"Once you put an exception in for the health of the mother," King said, "that’s a blank check to define it any way the physician desires."

"I want to do this matter as straight up as I can,” AP reported Kopf saying. "I have no inclination one way or another how this thing turns but … I want to dispel any notion that this court … has some agenda other than finding the facts truthfully.”

But the offer for a medical expert does not alleviate King’s concerns, AP reoprted.

"It’s virtually impossible for a court to gather that kind of information to overturn the decision made by the people of America through their voice in the entire U.S. Congress," King said.

King said Congress heard from dozens of medical experts during the years it considering the legislation.

The Nebraska court is hearing a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion law firm. The center filed the suit on behalf of Nebraska late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart, who sued to overturn the Nebraska ban, and three other abortion practitioners.

Kopf oversaw Carhart’s 2000 lawsuit.