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Ban on a Type of Abortion Upheld

Federal court says Ohio can limit 'partial-birth' procedure if there are safer alternatives.

December 18, 2003|From Associated Press

CINCINNATI — An Ohio law that bans a controversial late-term abortion procedure is constitutionally acceptable and the state can enforce it, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 2 to 1, to reverse a lower court's ruling against the law, which had been challenged before it could take effect in August 2000.

U.S. District Judge Walter Rice of Dayton ruled in 2001 that Ohio's law was unconstitutional because it wouldn't allow the procedure, called "partial-birth" abortion by opponents, to be used when it is safer for a patient.

Abortion provider Dr. Martin Haskell, who sued three years ago to challenge Ohio's law, will appeal Wednesday's ruling, said his lawyer, Alphonse Gerhardstein. Haskell hadn't decided whether to ask the full appeals court to reconsider the case or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review it.

Ohio Atty. Gen. Jim Petro was pleased with the ruling, spokesman Mark Gribben said.

In February 2002, the Bush administration filed arguments in support of Ohio's law.

Rice had ruled that the law would not allow the dilation-and-extraction procedure to be used when it is safer for a patient than other alternatives. The procedure involves pulling the fetus partially out of the uterus feet first. The skull is then punctured and the brain suctioned out, causing the skull to collapse and easing passage through the birth canal.

Appeals Judges James Ryan and Alice Batchelder said Ohio's law meets standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2000 that allow doctors to use the abortion method when necessary to protect the mother's health.

The Supreme Court set the standards when it threw out a Nebraska law that banned dilation-and-extraction late-term abortions.

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