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September 09, 2004 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-09

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NEWS

The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 9, 2004 - 9A

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban dealt
new blow by Neb. federal judge

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A third federal judge
has ruled the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act
unconstitutional, adding judicial weight that some
experts say could keep the issue from reaching the
U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln ruled
against the measure yesterday, saying Congress
ignored the most experienced doc-
tors when it determined that the Judges in
banned procedure would never be
necessary to protect the health of and San I
the mother - a finding he called
"unreasonable."haea ec
His ruling echoed decisions by ruled the
federal judges in New York and
San Francisco. The abortion ban unconstit
was signed last year by President
Bush but was not enforced because the three judges
agreed to hear constitutional challenges in simultane-
ous nonjury trials.
The ban, which President Clinton twice had vetoed,
was seen by abortion rights activists as a fundamental
departure from the Supreme Court's 1973 precedent in
Roe v. Wade. But the Bush administration has argued
that the so-called partial birth procedure is cruel and
unnecessary and causes pain to the fetus.
If each judge is upheld by federal appeals courts,
the high court might not take up the issue, said Pricilla
Smith, a lawyer with the New York-based Center for
Reproductive Rights.
"If all the appellate courts uphold those decisions,

I
F
a,
-4

there is no reason for it to go to the Supreme Court,"
Smith said.
Not everyone agreed.
"It's very unusual for the court not to take a case
where an act of Congress has been struck down," said
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center
for Law and Justice, which supports the ban. "I would
be very surprised if the court took a
New York pass on this."
The Nebraska lawsuit was filed
rancisco by the Center for Reproductive
Rights on behalf of physicians
idy including LeRoy Carhart, who
ban also brought the challenge that led
the high court in 2000 to overturn
itional. a similar ban passed by Nebraska
lawmakers.
"The Supreme Court already said what the law is
four years ago," Smith said. "The judges all across the
country, from different political persuasions, applied
the law and uniformly found it unconstitutional."
Louise Melling, director of the American Civil Lib-
erties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project, agreed
with Smith.
"What you have is a decision of a mere four years
ago striking a similar ban," she said. "And now you
have three courts striking a ban for the same reason."
Smith said, however, that if there is a change in the
makeup of the high court through presidential appoint-
ments, it might still hear the issue even if the appeals
courts uphold the decisions. "And that, of course, is

what the proponents of the law have been hoping for
all along," she said.
The Justice Department already has filed an appeal
of the San Francisco ruling and said in a statement
Wednesday that it "will continue to defend the law to
protect innocent new life from partial-birth abortion."
In his ruling, Kopf said "according to responsible
medical opinion, there are times when the banned pro-
cedure is medically necessary to preserve the health of
a woman and a respectful reading of the congressional
record proves that point. "No reasonable and unbiased
person could come to a different conclusion."
The federal law bars a procedure doctors called
"intact dilation and extraction," or D&X, and oppo-
nents call partial-birth abortion. During the proce-
dure, generally performed in the second trimester, a
fetus is partially removed from the womb and its skull
is punctured or crushed.
The law contains an exception when the life of the
mother - but not her health - is at risk. Backers of
the ban said a health exception would open a major
loophole, allowing abortions even when the mental
health of the mother is in question.
Kopf agreed with Carhart and his lawyers, who said
the law is vague and could be interpreted as covering
more common, less controversial procedures, includ-
ing "dilatation and evacuation," or D&E, which is the
most common method of second-trimester abortion.
A total of 1.3 million abortions are performed in
the United States each year. Almost 90 percent occur
in the first trimester.

Congress leaders to allow assault weapons ban to expire

WASHINGTON (AP) - Congress will not vote on an
assault weapons ban due to expire Monday, Republican
leaders said yesterday, rejecting a last-ditch effort by sup-
porters to renew it.
"I think the will of the American people is consistent with
letting it expire, so it will expire," Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist (R-Tenn.) told reporters.
The 10-year ban, signed by President Clinton in 1994, out-
lawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A clause
directed that the ban expire unless Congress specifically
reauthorized it.

ban. Bush has said he would sign such a bill if Congress
passed it.
"If the president asked me, it'd still be no ... because we
don't have the votes to pass an assault weapons ban and it will
expire Monday and that's that," House Majority Leader Tom
DeLay (R-Texas) told reporters later.
DeLay said the ban was "a feel-good piece of legislation"
that does nothing to keep weapons out of the hands of crimi-
nals.
Appearing at a news conference, chiefs of police from
the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Seattle

"Our streets, our homes, our citizens and our police offi-
cers will face great danger unless the federal ban on assault
weapons is renewed," said Charles Ramsey, the police chief
in the nation's capital.
In March, the Senate voted to add the ban to a bill that
would have immunized gun manufacturers from liability
suits stemming from violent gun crimes. But the Senate voted
90 to 8 against the final bill after the National Rifle Associa-
tion urged its defeats.
NRA President Wayne LaPierre said in an interview with
The Associated Press that his group is so confident that Con-
gress won't renew the ban that it is not spending any more
money on ads this year opposing it.

"I think the will of the
American people is consistent
with letting it expire."
- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)
He said supporters of the ban could not muster the sup-
port needed to bring it to a vote in the House because several
Democrats attribute losing their majority in the House in
1994 over votes then in favor of the ban.

Some Democrats and several police leaders said Presi- predicted an increase in violent gun crimes if the ban does
dent Bush should try to persuade Congress to renew the expire.

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