Appeals Court Strikes Down Virginia Abortion Ban

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned a Virginia abortion law on constitutional grounds. This is the second time the federal appeals court in Richmond has struck down this law ruling it would impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to obtain abortion care.

The 2-1 ruling affirms the same court’s 2005 decision to strike down the abortion ban, a ruling which prevented Virginia’s law from taking effect. However, last year the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law banning certain abortions. Following this decision, the Supreme Court ordered the appeals court to reexamine the Virginia law in light of the high court’s ruling on the federal ban. Since the Supreme Court decision in April 2007, federal appeals courts have overturned state bans in Michigan and now Virginia, finding that they are broader than the federal abortion ban.

Like the federal law, Virginia’s act banned certain abortion procedures after the first trimester and lacked an exception to protect women’s health.

“Unlike the federal act,” Judge M. Blane Michael wrote for the majority, “the Virginia act subjects all doctors who perform” the more common procedure “to potential criminal liability, thereby imposing an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to choose.”

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