US federal Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco has slammed the new Bush legislation on abortions as unconstitutional. "This court concludes that the act is unconstitutional because it poses an undue burden on a woman's ability to choose a second trimester abortion; is unconstitutionally vague; and requires a health exception,".
The new legalisation is the first major limit on abortions in the US since in 1973. The case was put forward by Planned Parenthood, an abortion clinic organization with offices across the US.
The ruling now means the US government cannot enforce the law, signed by President Bush last November.
Beth Parker the lawyer for Planned Parenthood welcomed the decision, saying it sent a "strong message" that the government "should not be intruding on very sensitive and private medical decisions".
The law had planned to ban "partial-birth abortions", which usually take place during the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.
The term partial-birth abortion refers to a class of late term abortion of a partially vaginally-delivered fetus or fetuses.
This procedure engenders extreme, emotionally-charged controversy, especially within the United States, as both pro-choice and pro-life advocates see the partial-birth abortion debate as a central battleground in the more general abortion debate. Late-term abortions in general, especially beyond the point in pregnancy where the fetus is viable, are also extremely controversial. Partial-birth abortions are a target of pro-life advocates because they believe the procedure most clearly illustrates why abortions, and especially late-term abortions, are immoral. On the other hand, pro-choice advocates believe all decisions regarding pregnancy and abortion should ultimately be made by the pregnant woman and her doctor.
The use of the term partial-birth abortion is a central part of the debate: many pro-choice advocates frequently counter that the phrase is a "non-medical" one, implying that opponents of the procedure are creating propaganda, while pro-life groups point out that the term preferred by the pro-choice camp, "intact dilation & extraction", was coined by two physicians just over a decade ago and appears in no peer-reviewed journals or medical texts.
Opponents of laws banning partial-birth abortions voice concern that the definition of partial-birth abortion is too vague and that it could have a negative impact on the practice of so-called "reproductive medicine."
The decision comes days after another federal judge blocked attempts by the government to reverse an Oregon state law allowing assisted suicides.