The trial begins today in Carhart v. Ashcroft, the federal civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of four doctors challenging the constitutionality of the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003."
The lawsuit contends that the federal ban is unconstitutional because it would ban abortions as early as 12-15 weeks in pregnancy, and would outlaw a range of safe abortions in the second trimester. The law also fails to safeguard women because it contains no exception for a woman's health.
"Four years ago, the Center for Reproductive Rights fought all the way to the Supreme Court to win a landmark ruling striking down a Nebraska abortion ban nearly identical to the federal abortion ban we challenge today. In that case, Stenberg v. Carhart, we represented LeRoy Carhart, the brave physician who is the lead plaintiff in this case.
Politicians have again come between Dr. Carhart and his patients, preventing him from giving them the best and safest medical care," stated Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization.
Northup, a former federal prosecutor, continued, "If this law were in effect, the considerable investigative power and prosecutorial resources of the federal criminal justice system would bear down on these doctors and invade their patients' privacy. FBI agents and U.S. Attorneys across the nation would have the full arsenal of law enforcement methods to enforce the abortion ban, including compelling testimony in the grand jury, using nationwide subpoena power to obtain medical records, and executing search warrants of doctors' offices."
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of LeRoy Carhart, M.D.,a physician licensed to practice in Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Wisconsin, William G. Fitzhugh, M.D., a physician licensed to practice in Virginia, William H. Knorr,M.D., a physician licensed to practice in Alabama, South Carolina, Maryland and New York, and Jill L. Vibhakar, M.D., a physician licensed to practice in Iowa. The defendant is John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States, The judge in the case is the Honorable Richard Kopf, appointed by former President Reagan. Lead attorney is in the lawsuit Priscilla Smith, Director of the Domestic Legal Program for the Center for Reproductive Rights, who was also on the Center's legal team in Stenberg v. Carhart.
Said Northup, "Dr. Carhart shouldn't have to be back in court, fighting the same fight all over again. Four years ago, the Supreme Court held that 'the findings and evidence support Dr. Carhart.' Nothing has changed since then, except a Congress and President bent on unraveling Roe v. Wade."