A federal judge on Thursday ruled against the government's ban on so-called partial birth abortions, saying the measure was unconstitutional because it failed to provide an exception to protect a mother's health.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Casey of Manhattan followed a similar decision by a San Francisco judge in June that barred the U.S. Justice Department from enforcing the ban, signed into law last year by President Bush.
A Justice Department spokesman had no immediate comment on the New York ruling. Earlier this month, the department said it would appeal the San Francisco court ruling. A federal judge in Nebraska has not ruled on a third challenge to the ban, informs Reuters.
While Casey concluded that such abortions are "gruesome, brutal, barbaric and uncivilized," he said the law banning them is unconstitutional because it doesn't contain an exception to protect the health of the mother. A previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that the procedure can be outlawed "only if there exists a medical consensus that there is no circumstance in which any women could potentially benefit from it," Casey said.
Three U.S. courts have suspended enforcement of the law. Judges in California and Nebraska issued temporary restraining orders last year. The judge in San Francisco declared the law unconstitutional in June and issued a permanent injunction. Today's ruling shields from prosecution all abortion providers who belong to the National Abortion Federation, which represents some 400 clinics and physicians, according to the NAF Web site, reports Bloomberg.
According to the Associated Press, Megan L. Gaffney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, said the government had no comment.
"We're thrilled," said Louise Melling, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project.
She said state legislatures and Congress for years has considered passing bans on a wide range of safe abortion practices.
"We can only hope as we have decision after decision after decision striking these bans, saying they endanger women's health, that the legislatures will finally stop," Melling said.
Although some observers suggest the law will affect 2,200 to 5,000 annually out of 1.3 million total abortions, doctors at trials earlier this year have testified it would affect about 130,000 abortions or almost all in the second trimester.
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