Partial-Birth Abortion Case In Nebraska Gets Closing Arguments

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 3, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Partial-Birth Abortion Case In Nebraska Gets Closing Arguments

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 3, 2004

Lincoln, NE ( — Both sides presented closing arguments yesterday in the second of three trials of challenges to the national ban on partial-birth abortions. The debate came just one day after a federal judge in California declared the ban unconstitutional because it lacked a health exception doctors say is unnecessary.

Justice Department attorneys argued that doctors say the gruesome three-day-long abortion procedure is never needed to protect women’s health.

Anthony Coppolino told U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf that Congress heard from numerous doctors about the abortion procedure before making their decision, according to an Associated Press report.

"At best this is a procedure that could be used, but there is no evidence that it is safer," Coppolino said, AP reports. "There are safe alternatives … the evidence credibly supports Congress."

But Priscilla Smith, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion law firm based in New York, said the testimony that Congress heard before passing the law did not reflect the neutral venue that a court offers.

"Their job is not to be objective. Their job is to represent majority views," Smith said, according to AP. She said the courts were the protectors of minority rights.

Smith said the only issue at stake in the trial was women’s health.

But, Coppolino said it was surprising that no studies existed showing the partial-birth abortion procedure is beneficial for women.

"That failure to study is quite telling," he said. "If you don’t defer to Congress … then who decides? The fact is the judicial branch will take it upon itself."

Judge Kopf is expected to strike down the abortion ban.

"It seems to me the law is highly suspect, if not a per se violation of the constitution," Kopf said in November when he issued a temporary injunction against the law prior to it taking effect.

Kopf agreed with a previous Supreme Court decision and said the law should have included a health exception.

The Nebraska lawsuit filed against the abortion ban was filed by LeRoy Carhart, a late-term abortionist who originally sued the state of Nebraska when its state legislature approved a similar ban. The Supreme Court eventually overturned the Nebraska law in 2000.

Three other abortion practitioners joined Carhart in filing the suit.

A federal judge in New York will hear closing arguments in the third trial on June 22. That case was filed by the National Abortion Federation, a national association of abortion businesses. He is considered the most likely of the three to uphold the pro-life law.