New York Judge strikes down federal abortion ban

Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA) has applauded the New York court ruling issued today in National Abortion Federation (NAF) v. Ashcroft, a lawsuit challenging the federal abortion ban passed by Congress last October and signed by President Bush. Today's ruling invalidates the ban.

"The abortion ban is an affront to women's health, the right to medical privacy and the U.S. Constitution and was rightfully struck down," PPLA President and CEO Mary-Jane Wagle said. "This ruling is a critical step toward ensuring that women and doctors -- not politicians -- make private, personal health care decisions. Doctors represented in this lawsuit can now provide the best health care to their patients free from the daunting specter of prosecution by the Ashcroft Justice Department."

On June 1, 2004, in Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Ashcroft, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California struck down the federal abortion ban. In doing so, the district court ruled that Attorney General Ashcroft cannot enforce the federal abortion ban against any Planned Parenthood affiliate, or its "officers, agents, servants, employees, [or] contractors," whether the abortion is performed in a facility owned or operated by Planned Parenthood or elsewhere.

The New York case included the overwhelming testimony of highly respected ob/gyns from around the country who testified that this law would ban abortions as early as 12 to 15 weeks in pregnancy, abortions they say are safe and among the best for women's health. The ban would further fail to safeguard women because it does not contain an exception to protect their health. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and many other major medical organizations have joined PPFA in opposing the ban. In an attempted sweeping invasion of medical privacy earlier this year, Attorney General John Ashcroft tried unsuccessfully to obtain thousands of confidential medical records of women who obtained abortions. Among the records subpoenaed were those from Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide, including PPLA, but PPFA successfully blocked the effort. Ashcroft's calculated fishing expedition was in response to the effort to block the federal abortion ban.

On March 29, 2003, three federal courts began hearing legal challenges to the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," a new law passed by Congress in October 2003 and signed by President Bush in November 2003. The lawsuits were brought by PPFA on behalf of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, the affiliate in San Francisco, and the physicians, staff and patients of Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide; the American Civil Liberties Union and Wilmer Cutler Pickering LLP on behalf of the National Abortion Federation and other doctors; and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CCR) on behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart and other doctors. A ruling in the CCR case is expected later this summer.

For a more comprehensive summary of the ruling in PPFA v. Ashcroft, go to http://www.plannedparenthood.org/abortionbantrials.

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