Supreme Court Should Not Review Federal Abortion Ban Case, Center’s Brief Argues

New York, NY-Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a brief in opposition to the federal government's request that the United States Supreme Court review the appellate court's decision in Gonzales v. Carhart. In that ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit struck down the "Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003," holding that it is unconstitutional because it fails to provide any exception to the ban when a woman's health is at stake.

"For more than thirty years, the Supreme Court has consistently held that a woman's health and safety must remain a doctor's paramount concern,"said Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "The federal abortion ban fails that test every time. This law robs doctors of the ability to protect their patients' health, while raising the risks to their health at the same time."

As the Center's brief argues, the Supreme Court addressed this issue just five years ago in the Center's case, Stenberg v. Carhart. In that ruling, the Court struck down a similar Nebraska statute. The only difference between that case and Gonzales v. Carhart is that there is even more evidence now that the ban will put women at risk. In this case, twelve physicians, many from prominent medical institutions all over the country, testified that enforcing such an abortion ban without a health exception would significantly undermine the safety of abortion services. Therefore, the brief asserts, the Court should deny the government's request that the Court review the Eighth Circuit's ruling.

President Bush signed the federal abortion ban into law in 2003. Shortly thereafter, three challenges to the law were brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Federation of America in separate federal courts on behalf of their clients. Last year, all three trial courts declared the law unconstitutional because it contains no exception for the woman's health. Two of the courts, including the court in this case, also held that the law is unconstitutional because it is so broad that it would outlaw some of the safest abortion procedures performed as early as 12 weeks in pregnancy. The other two cases are pending in the courts of appeals.

The plaintiffs in Gonzales v. Carhart are Dr. LeRoy Carhart; Dr. William G. Fitzhugh; Dr. William H. Knorr; and Dr. Jill L. Vibhakar.