HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fourth Circuit Upholds Virginia's Partial Birth Abortion Ban

The Washington Post reports on the Fourth Circuit Court's en banc decision to uphold Virginia's partial birth abortion ban.  Josh White states,

A sharply divided federal appeals court ruled constitutional yesterday a Virginia law banning "partial birth" abortion that was overturned four years ago, bringing the state in line with a federal ban on the controversial procedure.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned the Virginia law in 2005 by a 2 to 1 vote, finding that it did not allow for exceptions to safeguard a woman's health. The Supreme Court ordered the appeals judges to revisit the issue when it upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act two years ago, a law passed by Congress in 2003 that is similar to Virginia's ban.

Although the Virginia law permits women to choose various abortion procedures, it specifically makes it a crime for doctors to perform a rare midterm abortion that involves partially delivering the fetus before crushing its skull to ease removal.

William G. Fitzhugh, a Richmond doctor who challenged the law, argued that the procedure can be necessary to protect the life of a patient and that banning it could prevent doctors from performing legal procedures out of a fear of prosecution. Opponents of the procedure liken it to infanticide. . . .

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