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Justice Dept. Appeals Ruling on Abortion Procedure

August 03, 2004|Lee Romney | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday appealed a U.S. District Court judge's June 1 ruling declaring the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional.

U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft and President Bush had vigorously condemned the ruling and vowed a continued fight. Similar challenges are pending in New York and Nebraska to the act -- the first federal law to outlaw an abortion procedure since a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy was established by Roe vs. Wade more than three decades ago.

The subject is likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

At issue is a procedure known as "intact dilation and extraction," which involves partially removing an intact fetus from the uterus before puncturing its skull and completing the abortion. In her June 1 ruling, U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton deemed the ban unconstitutionally vague, said it imposes an unconstitutional "undue burden" on a woman's right to choose an abortion, and that it fails to provide a required health exemption for the mother.

In its Monday filing with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Department of Justice said it planned to show that Hamilton erred in all three conclusions.

A similar abortion ban was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court four years ago for virtually identical reasons, but administration attorneys had argued that Congress addressed the high court's concerns in drafting the current law.

The San Francisco challenge was filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood Golden Gate and the city and county of San Francisco.

Dian Harrison, president of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, said Monday that Ashcroft's appeal "is wasting Americans' hard-earned tax dollars to fund his anti-choice crusade."

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