SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge Tuesday permanently blocked the Bush administration from enforcing the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act against Planned Parenthood Federation of America clinics and their doctors, who perform roughly half the nation's abortions.
U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, ruling in one of three lawsuits challenging the Congressional legislation President Bush signed last year, said the first substantial legislation limiting a woman's right to choose was an unconstitutional infringement of three decades of Supreme Court precedent.
"The act poses an undue burden on a woman's right to choose an abortion," Hamilton wrote in her 120-page opinion.
Hamilton was the first of three federal judges presiding over lawsuits challenging the regulation to issue a decision. Bush signed the bill in November, saying "a terrible form of violence has been directed against children who are inches from birth while the law looked the other way."
In the banned procedure, which the government said was never medically necessary, a doctor partially removes a living fetus from the womb before puncturing or crushing its skull. Justice Department attorneys argued that dismembering the fetus in the woman's womb, and removing it in parts, was more humane than having a living fetus partially delivered before killing it.
"There is a substantial state interest in protecting potential life," Scott Simpson, the government's attorney who defended the act, argued before Hamilton last month.
He argued that the banned procedure "blurs the line of abortion and infanticide." Abortion proponents, however, argued that a woman's health during an abortion is more important than how the fetus is terminated, and that the banned method is often a safer solution.
© Copyright 2004 The Associated Press