Pro-choice advocates have reason for hope

Although it doesn’t feel like it, abortion rights advocates can find more than one reason for hope since President Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act into law on Wednesday. The federal ban, which prohibits procedures on fetuses that are approximately 14 weeks or older, even when performed to protect the health of the woman, was blocked less than an hour after being passed into a law by a federal judge in Lincoln, Neb.

The Nebraska ruling, handed down by U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf, applies to four doctors, who together are licensed in 13 states in the Midwest and East, and their staffs.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Kopf said he was concerned the federal law was unconstitutionally vague and was “very similar” to the Nebraska law that the U.S. Supreme Court determined created an “undue burden” on women’s rights.

He also expressed concern over the law’s lack of exception to allow abortions in cases when the pregnant woman’s health is in danger.

“While … Congress found that a health exception is not needed, it is, at the very least, problematic whether I should defer to such a conclusion when the Supreme Court has found otherwise,” the Associated Press reported the judge saying Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Richard Casey granted a similar block Thursday on behalf on the National Abortion Federation and seven doctors in New York. The Guardian reported Thursday that although the New York ruling applies only to the plaintiffs, “the federation says that its members perform half of the abortions done nationwide.”

In his ruling, Casey said the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm without the court injunction.

The Guardian reported that Casey “said the government made clear at a hearing Wednesday the medical community is conflicted as to whether the procedures covered by the law are necessary to protect a woman’s health and that Congress did not find a consensus.”

“Given the (government’s) position, the court is constrained, at this time, to conclude that it is substantially likely that plaintiffs will succeed on the merits,” Casey said in his decision.

Similar cases are being heard in San Francisco.

It’s not only abortion doctors who are fighting on behalf of abortion rights and women’s rights.

NARAL Pro-Choice America launched an aggressive television ad campaign Wednesday that it says highlights the fact that the ban violates the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship and that, with the signing of the bill, Bush has become the first president to criminalize safe medical procedures.

In a similar call for abortion rights, the Boston Globe reported Senator John F. Kerry as saying Wednesday: “There is no such thing as a partial birth.”

Kerry, speaking first among the six Democratic presidential contenders at a Planned Parenthood forum on women’s issues, continued: “It is a late-term abortion. They have done a very effective job of giving people a sense of fear about it. It’s part of their assault on the rights of women in America. … There’s nothing partial about their effort to undo Roe v. Wade.”