- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

RICHMOND — A federal judge yesterday struck down Virginia’s “partial-birth” abortion law, saying it violated the right to privacy and failed to contain a provision to protect the health of the woman.

U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams called the law “impermissibly void for vagueness.”

He had blocked the law July 1, 2003, the day it went into effect, calling it at the time a “no-brain case.” The judge also has challenged the use of the term “partial-birth infanticide” by the law’s backers, saying it was an attempt to alarm the public.

The state law outlawed a procedure generally performed in the second or third trimester in which a fetus is partially delivered before being killed.

Specifically, it prohibits doctors from knowingly killing a fetus once its head has emerged from the birth canal or, in a feet-first birth, the fetus has emerged as far as its navel. Pro-life activists call the procedure “partial-birth abortion.”

Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights, who filed the suit, argued that the law was unconstitutional because it dismissed a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows the procedure when the health of the mother is threatened.

The Virginia law contained no such health exception.

The suit said the “vaguely defined” ban could subject doctors to criminal prosecution for safely performing a common type of second trimester abortion known as “dilation and evacuation,” as well as obstetrical procedures that help women suffering miscarriages.

But the law’s backers said it specifically targeted procedures that take place once that fetus has emerged from the birth canal.

About 30 states have enacted versions of partial-birth abortion bans, but in many cases they have been overturned in court. The federal ban is being challenged in Nebraska, New York and California.

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