by Steven Ertelt
April 15, 2005
St. Louis, MO (LifeNews.com) — A federal appeals court held a hearing Thursday on one of the three lawsuits filed by abortion advocates seeking to overturn the national ban on partial-birth abortions. Attorneys for the Bush administration argued the measure Congress approved is constitutional.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gregory Katsas, representing the Justice Department, told a three judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that partial-birth abortions are never necessary to protect a woman’s health. Therefore, a health exception to the ban is not needed.
Katsas wants the appellate court to overturn a ruling issued by a Nebraska federal judge declaring the ban unconstitutional because it violates a 2000 Supreme Court decision saying such exceptions are needed.
He told the judges that Congress spent years gathering testimony from expert witnesses who said that partial-birth abortions harm women and do not protect their reproductive health.
"Congress further found partial birth abortion is not safer than other forms of abortion," Katsas added.
However, lawyer Priscilla Smith with the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion law firm, disputed Katsas’ remarks.
Arguing on behalf of late-term abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart and three other people who do abortions, she said the ban runs afoul of the high court’s Stenberg v. Carhart decision. She also said the ban inadequately defined the abortion procedure.
"Their real argument here is with the Supreme Court’s opinion," she said, according to an AP report.
President Bush signed the partial-birth abortion ban into law in 2003, but abortion practitioners and abortion businesses took the law to court immediately afterward. Federal judges in California, New York and Nebraska overturned the ban in three separate cases.
Justice Department attorneys told the Associated Press that the appeals court isn’t expected to rule for another three to six months.