Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit declared a Virginia abortion ban unconstitutional and held “the lack of a health exception alone provides a sufficient basis for invalidating restrictions on a woman’s right to have an abortion.” The 2003 law, deceptively called “the partial-birth infanticide” act, was also written so broadly that it would outlaw the most common and safest abortion procedures starting as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy. Doctors could even face criminal prosecution for attending to women who have suffered miscarriages.
The legal challenges against the Virginia law began in June 2003 when the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of Richmond Medical Center for Women, Dr. William Fitzhugh and their patients.
“Anti-choice forces across the country best take heed: you’re not fooling anybody but yourselves. Today, yet another federal court has found these dangerous abortion bans unconstitutional because they not only fail to protect women’s health, they shamelessly endanger it,” said Priscilla Smith, Director of the Domestic Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Last year, a lower court struck down Virginia’s abortion ban. Five years ago, another similar Virginia statute was ruled unconstitutional. Both laws mirror a Nebraska statute struck down by the Supreme Court in 2000 and the first-ever federal abortion ban signed by President George W. Bush in 2003-struck down by three federal courts. The Center brought the lawsuits against the federal and Nebraska bans and both Virginia laws.
As the Fourth Circuit Court held, citing the Supreme Court, “a woman’s interest in protecting her health is at the core of her ‘constitutional liberty… to have some freedom to terminate her pregnancy.’ This enduring principle-which the dissent either ignores or minimizes-was recognized in Roe v. Wade…”
These laws are part of an ongoing deceptive campaign by the anti-choice movement to limit, if not, eliminate abortion access. Proponents claim that the term “partial-birth abortion” refers to one specific procedure. But, in fact, the term has no medical meaning and has been defined in statutes so broadly as to sweep into its net some of the safest procedures used. The term also suggests that it is about abortions taking place at birth, in other words, at full term or “late term.” But nothing in these laws limits their application to post-viability abortions and, in reality, appears not to impact any post-viability abortions at all.
Learn more about bans on abortion throughout the country.