ACLU and National Abortion Federation Call On U.S. Supreme Court to Hold Women’s Health Paramount as Court Agrees to Review Federal Abortion Ban Ruling

February 21, 2006 12:00 am

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– The National Abortion Federation (NAF) and the American Civil Liberties Union

today called on the U.S. Supreme Court to hold women’s health paramount as the

Court agreed to review a ruling striking down the “Partial Birth Abortion Act of

2003.” Both groups urged the Court to affirm the decision below based on

three decades of legal precedent protecting women’s health.

“Every court considering this ban has found that it lacks the necessary

protections for women’s health,” said Vicki Saporta, NAF President and

CEO. “Witness after witness in all three legal challenges to the law has

made clear that this ban prohibits abortions in the second trimester that

doctors say are safe and among the best to protect women’s health.”

Today’s decision by the Court will allow for the review of a July 2005 ruling

by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in Carhart v.

Gonzales. Brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the case is one

of three challenges to the Federal Abortion Ban signed into law by President

Bush in 2003.

Late last month, two federal appeals courts also held the ban

unconstitutional. In a challenge brought by NAF and seven individual

physicians, represented by the ACLU, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP,

the ACLU of Illinois, and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NAF v. Gonzales),

the Second Circuit affirmed that the ban requires a health exception and asked

for further legal briefing to determine how to remedy the violation. On

the same day, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision striking down

the ban in a challenge brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America

(Planned Parenthood v. Gonzales).

“The Supreme Court struck down a nearly identical state ban only six years

ago in part because it failed to include protections for women’s health.

Congress deliberately defied that ruling when it passed the federal ban,” said

Talcott Camp, Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

“In deciding this case, we hope the Court will call on lawmakers to respect the

rule of law once and for all: abortion laws must include protections for women’s


Medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and

Gynecologists, oppose the federal ban.

Congress passed the federal ban despite the numerous court decisions,

including a decision in 2000 by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart,

striking down similar state bans. Courts have consistently struck down the bans

for two reasons: their broad language prohibits abortions as early as 13 weeks

in pregnancy, and they lack exceptions to protect women’s health.

NAF is the professional association of abortion providers in North America.

NAF members care for more than half the women who choose abortion each year in

the United States and work at clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals

throughout the country, including premier teaching hospitals.

The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts,

legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and

liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and

laws of the United States.

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