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Court orders Missouri abortion case revived

  Legal Business  -   POSTED: 2007/04/24 08:04

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week upholding a ban on an abortion procedure must be applied to a lawsuit in Missouri, the court ordered Monday. The two-sentence order threw out a 2005 ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a Missouri ban on certain late-term abortions that lower courts had concluded lacked an exception for the health of pregnant women. The procedure is called “partial-birth abortion” by opponents and “intact dilation and extraction” by physician groups.

In a 5-4 decision last week, the high court said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed in 2003 does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

It was the first time the court had upheld a ban on a specific abortion procedure.

The 1999 Missouri law sought to ban the procedure, generally performed in the second or third trimester, but the law was put on hold by a federal judge one day after the legislature enacted it by overriding a gubernatorial veto.

The law created the crime of “infanticide,” defined as intentionally causing the death of a baby “when the infant is partially born or born.”

Doctors violating the ban could have been charged with a felony similar to murder.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon had appealed the 8th Circuit’s ruling.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said Nixon planned to file a motion Monday asking the 8th Circuit to vacate its injunction against enforcing the Missouri law.

That would allow the law to take effect immediately.

Doctors who violate the federal law face up to two years in prison.

The law had never taken effect, pending the outcome of the legal fight.

Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said Monday that he was unaware of any doctors in Missouri who were performing the procedure or who had performed it in recent years.

“On a practical level, the decision has very little bearing in terms of day-to-day medical care (in Missouri),” he said.

He said he was concerned, though, about the Supreme Court decision’s future effect because the federal ban it upheld did not contain an exception for the health of the mother.

Pam Fichter, president of Missouri Right to Life, said she was “very gratified that the courts have ruled that there are limits to what can be construed as the health of the mother.”

The high court’s ruling is expected to spur efforts at the state level to place more restrictions on abortions.


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