- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2000

Abortion-rights supporters in Virginia will ask a federal appeals court to scrap the state's law banning partial-birth abortions immediately, in light of yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Nebraska case.
Karen Raschke, a Richmond-based lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, said the group could file papers with the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond as early as today asking it to lift an order that has allowed the law to stay in effect while under challenge. Planned Parenthood also will ask the court to summarily overturn the law without further proceedings.
"The Virginia law is just as deceptive as the Nebraska law," Ms. Raschke said.
In a 5-4 ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Nebraska's law banning dilation and extraction abortions commonly called partial-birth abortions violated guidelines the court set forth in 1973's Roe vs. Wade and 1992's Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. The majority ruled that Nebraska's law was vague and could be read to ban dilation and evacuation abortions the most common type of second-term abortion. The court also ruled the law must have an exception for the health of the mother.
Virginia's General Assembly passed the law in 1998, but a U.S. District Court judge in Richmond ruled it unconstitutional last year. The state appealed to the 4th Circuit, which hasn't yet scheduled a date for arguments. The appeals court has let the law remain in effect while it considers the case.
The question for the court now will be how similar Virginia's law is to Nebraska's.
Yesterday, Attorney General Mark L. Earley, who defended Virginia's law before federal district and appeals courts and filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Nebraska law, was taking a wait-and-see approach.
"We are carefully studying the 44-page decision and its full impact on Virginia's law," said Mr. Earley's spokesman, David B. Botkins.
But Mr. Earley's allies said there's no hope for Virginia's law.
"None at all," said Fiona Givens, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Society for Human Life.
Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, Virginia Beach Republican and the point man in the assembly for legislation restricting abortions, said Virginia's law is in trouble.
"I think the operative language in Nebraska and Virginia are pretty darn close," he said.
One difference, however, is that Virginia's ban provides an exception to save the life of the mother.
Mrs. Givens said the court's majority ruling makes it impossible to cast a new law that has any teeth.
Still, Mr. Earley and Mr. McDonnell indicated they will try, if the current law is struck down.
A ban on partial-birth abortions has never been seriously considered in the District of Columbia.
But in Maryland, some lawmakers try, and fail, every year to pass such a bill.
One supporter said yesterday's court decision has no effect on his efforts.
"The Maryland legislation the bill I introduced in 1999 I think language we have in that bill would even pass constitutional muster with liberal justices because it's drafted differently," said state Sen. Larry Haines, Carroll County Republican.
He said his bill is written so it doesn't ban dilation and evacuation procedures, though it doesn't include an exception for the health of the mother.
But House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman said the court isn't the issue in Maryland. "If the Supreme Court said [the law] is fine and dandy, you still can't get it through the Maryland legislature."

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