Nebraska Doctor Challenges Federal Abortion Ban in Court Today

Center for Reproductive Rights Files Case on Behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart

In a Nebraska federal court today, the Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging a federal ban on safe abortion procedures about to be signed into law by President Bush. The unconstitutional ban, which contains no health exception, prohibits doctors from using the safest abortion methods starting as early as 12 weeks. The Center is filing the lawsuit on behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, the lead plaintiff in the United States Supreme Court case that struck down an essentially identical ban in 2000. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the ban from ever taking effect.

"I am challenging this new federal ban for the same reasons I challenged the Nebraska abortion ban: it is an attack on women's right to obtain safe abortions," said Dr. Carhart. "As a doctor, it is my duty to use the safest procedures I have available once a patient decides to terminate her pregnancy. By signing this ban, President Bush will put my patients' health, reproductive abilities and very lives at risk."

"The Supreme Court has already spoken: these laws are unconstitutional and a threat to women's health and lives," said Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "We hope the court will act quickly to stop this law from going into effect, before it can harm a single woman."

The challenged law is the first federal ban on abortion practice. Since 1995, 31 states have enacted bans on so-called "partial-birth abortions." In every state where the bans have been challenged, the courts have declared them unconstitutional.

So-called "partial-birth abortion" bans criminalize many abortion procedures with severe penalties on doctors that include imprisonment and fines. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which represents over 90 percent of all physicians specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, rejected the bans as "inappropriate, ill advised and dangerous."

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed its case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. Lawyers on the case include Priscilla J. Smith of the Center for Reproductive Rights and Nebraska attorneys Jerry M. Hug and Alan G. Stoler.