Congress Fails to Fix Ban on Safe Abortion Procedures; ACLU Promises Lawsuit to Protect Women and Doctors

September 30, 2003 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union denounced as dangerous and unconstitutional the misleadingly named “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003” that emerged from the congressional conference committee this evening. The ACLU said it plans an immediate legal challenge to the ban to protect women and doctors.

“Once again, proponents of the bill are engaged in a campaign of deceit,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislature Office. “Their claims that they modified the ban to make it constitutional are patently false. They didn’t even add a health exception — even though the U.S. Supreme Court has made it perfectly clear that such an exception is necessary.”

The ACLU said the ban in question remains effectively no different from a Nebraska law invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court just three years ago. In that case, the Court struck down Nebraska’s ban because it was written so broadly that it criminalized a range of abortion procedures, including the procedure used to perform the overwhelming majority of abortions after the first trimester, and because it failed to include a health exception.

Both chambers of Congress passed nearly identical measures banning safe abortion procedures earlier this year. A conference committee met this evening/last night to resolve differences between the two bills. The committee made minor changes to the bill. The measure now returns to the House and Senate floors. President Bush has said he will sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk, which could be as early as this week.

“All the fuss about the changed language is much ado about nothing,” Murphy added. “The underlying problem remains: the ban would still make it a crime for doctors to perform the safest and most common abortion procedures used after the first trimester, and it still lacks an exception to protect women’s health. Congress should stop the political shenanigans and start acting to protect women and doctors.”

The ACLU will file a lawsuit challenging the ban on behalf of the National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortion providers whose members perform more than half of the abortions conducted each year in this country and who work at clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals throughout the United States and Canada, including premier teaching hospitals.

Since 1995, in addition to Nebraska, 30 other states have tried to enact similar bans. In every state where the bans have been challenged, the courts have declared the laws unconstitutional and blocked enforcement.

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The latest in Reproductive Freedom

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is 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 of America.

Learn More About Reproductive Freedom

Reproductive Freedom issue image

The ACLU works to ensure that every person can make the best decision for themselves and their family about whether and when to have a child without undue political interference.