by Steven Ertelt
November 1, 2007
Richmond, VA (LifeNews.com) — A Virginia state ban on partial-birth abortions is slated to have a hearing before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today. The hearing is the latest in a years-long legal battle and the outcome of the hearing will likely be affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling in April that a national ban is constitutional.
The nation’s high court sent the case back to the appeals court shortly after it determined that the federal ban doesn’t require a health exception that would render it meaningless.
The 4th Circuit had originally declared the partial-birth abortion ban invalid because it failed to include such an exception, even though the three-day-long abortion procedure is never necessary to protect a woman’s health.
In June 2005, a three judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit issued a 2-1 decision upholding the ruling of a Richmond federal judge who said the measure was unconstitutional for the same reason.
"Because the Virginia Act does not contain an exception for circumstance when the banned abortion procedures are necessary to preserve a woman’s health, we affirm the summary judgment order declaring the Act unconstitutional on its face,” Judge M. Blane Michael wrote at the time.
However, Judge Paul Niemeyer dissented and said the Virginia law, which defines a partial-birth abortion as an infanticide, is significantly different from the Nebraska statute.
He said the panel’s opinion "in essence, constitutionalizes infanticide of a most gruesome nature.”
The judges based their decision on a 2000 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortions because it didn’t have the health exception.
But the Supreme Court’s more recent decision to uphold the federal ban overturns the Carhart case and the federal appeals court is now expected to uphold Virginia’s ban.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion law firm that filed a legal challenge to the law, filed the original suit against the ban and claimed it was written so broadly that it would ban other later-term abortion procedures.