Partial-Birth Abortion Attorneys Reject Judge’s Offer for Expert Help

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Partial-Birth Abortion Attorneys Reject Judge’s Offer for Expert Help

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 12, 2004

Lincoln, NE ( — Attorneys for the Justice Department and abortion practitioners both rejected a federal judge’s offer for an expert medical advisor to assist him in evaluating a pro-abortion lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban on partial-birth abortions. The judge made the offer on Friday saying that he doesn’t want to appear biased in deciding the case.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf, who was the first judge to overturn the Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortions — a case that eventually produced a 2000 Supreme Court decision against the ban — wanted to make certain he did not appear biased in favor of the abortion practitioners.

Lawyers with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, a pro-abortion law firm, filed suit against the ban on behalf of Nebraska partial-birth abortionist LeRoy Carhart and three other abortion practitioners.

Priscilla Smith, an attorney with the center, said her side has received a fair hearing on Kopf’s court and that a medical expert to help Kopf was unnecessary.

Justice Department attorney Terry Henry told the Associated Press his agreed. "I don’t think there is a need for it," Henry said.

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

Last 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 on Friday. "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 reported.

"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.

Judge Kopf made the same offer shortly after the case was filed last year. At that point, both parties rejected it.

Final arguments in the case are tentatively set for June 2 and Kopf said he will render a decision by mid-August.