‘PARTIAL-BIRTH’ ABORTION: Courts Move To Block Bans In Virginia And Wisconsin
A federal District Court judge yesterday issued a temporary injunction against Virginia's "partial-birth" abortion ban, just days before the law was to take effect. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Judge Robert Payne "ruled in favor of ... two doctors and four clinics," who argued that the law would infringe upon doctors' medical judgment and that the law is likely to be overturned when its constitutionality is tested August 18 (Campbell/Stallsmith, 6/26). Abortion rights supporters said the law, as written, could outlaw procedures commonly used in second-trimester abortions. Payne wrote: "[P]hysicians who perform otherwise lawful abortions in Virginia will suffer irreparable harm because they will be constrained to alter their medical advice to, and their medical care of, their patients, contrary to their best professional judgment" (Cienski, AP/Fairfax Journal, 6/26).
The Times-Dispatch further reports that Payne wrote: "The term 'partial-birth abortion' is a term coined by legislators, antiabortion activists and the media. It has no accepted medical meaning." Karen Raschke, attorney for the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, applauded the decision, saying, "The law never had anything to do with so-called partial-birth abortion. It had everything to do with preventing women in Virginia from receiving legal abortions." Payne stated that the plaintiffs will likely win the August hearing on the grounds that it is too vague and provides no exception to save the life of the mother.
Not Done Yet
Virginia Gov. James Gilmore (R), who pushed for the ban, said, "While I am disappointed by today's court ruling, I remain fully committed to banning partial-birth abortions in Virginia. I am confident the bipartisan legislation I signed rests on solid constitutional grounds" (Times-Dispatch, 6/26). Gilmore and Attorney General Mark Earley (R) said they will appeal the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond (Cain, Washington Times, 6/26). Earley said, "We will continue to ... fight to uphold the dignity and worth of human life. Virginia's statute ... is supported by an overwhelming majority of Virginians" (Hsu, Washington Post, 6/26).
Same Song In Wisconsin
The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay on Wisconsin's partial-birth ban, "pending appeal of a June 12 ruling by U.S. District Judge John Shabaz," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Chief Judge Richard Posner and Circuit Judges Daniel Manion and Ilana Diamond Rovner did not overrule Shabaz's denial of a temporary injunction against the law, "but issued a stay against the law pending oral arguments on the request," scheduled for August 10 in Chicago. A hearing on the constitutionality of the law itself is set for October 19 in Shabaz's courtroom. "We are relieved that the 7th Circuit stopped this law, especially since this law threatens a woman's health, rather than protects it," said Chris Korsmo, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. But Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right To Life, maintained optimism in facing the long road ahead. "'[T]here's a long way to go in procedural motions before this issue is decided,' especially considering that the losing side likely would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court," she said (Marchione, 6/26).