Center for Reproductive Rights Declares Victory Against Virginia Abortion Ban

Court Recognizes that Law Would Force Physicians to Stop Providing Services

NEW YORK -- Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights hailed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit striking down an extreme Virginia law, declaring that "it imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to obtain an abortion." The law, first challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights in 2003, was so far-reaching that it would have outlawed the most common abortion methods starting in the early second trimester.

"Federal courts are seeing through these thinly veiled attempts to undermine a woman's ability to obtain an abortion," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Lower courts are providing a crucial backstop against anti-choice forces using the Supreme Court's recent ruling to ride roughshod over women's health."

In 2007 in the case Gonzales v. Carhart, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal law on the grounds that it banned only a clearly defined method and required that the physician intend to perform that method at the outset of the abortion. But today, the appellate court found that Virginia's ban is substantially broader than the federal law, such that "every time" a physician sets out to perform any standard second trimester abortion, "he faces the unavoidable risk of criminal prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment under the Virginia Act."

Virginia's statute is part of an ongoing campaign by the anti-choice movement to eliminate women's personal decision-making about whether to have an abortion, and to make doing so even more difficult. In fact in June 2007, also following Gonzales v. Carhart, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Michigan's third attempt at a broad abortion ban that would have prohibited even first trimester abortions, characterizing the law as pushing every boundary that the Supreme Court imposed in Carhart II.

"We are extremely pleased that the court recognized the importance of stopping such an extreme ban. The only way for doctors to obey this law would be to stop performing the most common second trimester abortion methods," said Stephanie Toti, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights who argued before the appellate court.

Today's case is Richmond Medical Center v. Herring. The plaintiffs are Richmond Medical Center, its staff and patients. The plaintiffs are represented by Toti and Janet Crepps, deputy director of the domestic legal program at the Center for Reproductive Rights.