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Lawsuit Challenges State Ban on Partial-Birth Abortion

Lawsuit Challenges State Ban on Partial-Birth Abortion

Posted - May 4, 2004 at 8:02 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A lawsuit filed in federal court challenges the constitutionality of the state's new ban on partial-birth abortions.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Monday -- the day the law went into effect. It was brought by the Utah Women's Clinic and the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.

"We are asking for an injunction until three challenges to a mirror federal ban make it through the courts," said Karrie Galloway, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Utah. "We can't let a law that's enjoined nationally go into effect here. There would be no need for this legal action if legislators and the governor had waited for the federal cases to be decided."

The suit contends the Utah law suffers "from the identical two constitutional flaws" as a Nebraska statute recently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Utah act bans the procedure except when it is necessary to save the woman's life. It does not allow for the abortions to protect her health.

The new law defines partial-birth abortion as a procedure during which a living fetus is delivered to the point of being partially outside the body of the mother and is then killed.

The suit contends that definition is so broad "as to chill physicians from providing the safest and most common method of abortion used in the second trimester of pregnancy prior to viability, the dilation and evacuation (D&E) method."

It said D&E procedures sometimes result in an unexpected partial delivery of a fetus.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, said he was not surprised that the lawsuit was filed and he leaves it up to the state attorney general to try to "respond appropriately."

Legislators who supported Utah's bill hoped they would be able to join a federal lawsuit over the issue so the state could avoid footing the bill.

The lawsuit contends the law would deny the procedure to a woman who could suffer permanent cardiac or kidney problems due to a continued pregnancy but could not be considered certain to die if she carried the baby to full term.

The law makes it a third-degree felony to perform a partial-birth abortion. It also allows for doctors performing such procedures to lose their licenses and would let a woman's husband, if she is married, or parents, if she is younger than 18, bring a civil lawsuit against any doctor who performs a partial-birth abortion on the woman.

The Utah Health Department said 3,300 abortions were performed in Utah last year, most of which occurred before 10 weeks of gestation at the Utah Women's Clinic, which serves patients in seven Western states and sued on behalf of its physicians.

No partial-birth abortions are believed to have been performed in Utah for more than a decade.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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