ACLU, NYCLU, and National Abortion Federation Call on U.S. Supreme Court to Hold Women’s Health Paramount in Federal Abortion Ban Challenge

Here is the press release we issued today with the American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union:

    The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the National Abortion Federation (NAF) today submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court calling on the Court to continue to hold women’s health paramount when it hears argument on November 8th in challenges to a federal ban on abortion. These groups urged the Court to affirm lower court decisions striking down the ban.

    “This law prohibits abortions as early as 13 weeks in pregnancy that doctors say are safe and among the best to protect women’s health,” said Vicki Saporta, NAF President and CEO. “We hope that the Supreme Court will recognize the danger this ban poses to women’s health and allow doctors to continue to make decisions based on their best medical judgment.”

    The Court is set to review two challenges to the federal abortion ban – called the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act by its sponsors – during the 2006 Term: Gonzales v. Carhart, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart and three other physicians and decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in July 2005, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of its affiliates throughout the country and decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in October 2005. Both circuit courts struck down the ban.

    A third challenge to the federal abortion ban, NAF v. Gonzales, was 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. In January 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed that the ban requires a health exception and asked for further legal briefing to determine how to remedy the violation. That case is now on hold as the other two cases go before the Supreme Court.

    “Decisions involving pregnancy and medical care should be left to a woman and her doctor,” said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Such decisions should not be mandated by politicians.”

    Medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose the federal ban.

    Congress passed the federal ban and President Bush signed it into law in 2003, despite the numerous court decisions striking down similar state bans, including a decision in 2000 by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart. 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.

    Today’s brief in Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America is the second friend-of-the-court brief filed by the ACLU and NAF. On August 11, 2006, both organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Gonzales v. Carhart.

    NAF is the professional association of abortion providers in the United States and Canada. 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. The NYCLU is the New York affiliate of the ACLU.

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