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Another Judge Blocks US Law Banning Late-Term Abortion Method - 2003-11-07

A Federal Court judge in New York has blocked enforcement of the government's new ban on certain late-term abortions, signed by President Bush Wednesday.

Judge Michael Casey is the second federal judge to temporarily block legal enforcement of a ban on a procedure known as partial birth abortion. Wednesday, an hour after President signed a measure making the procedure illegal, a federal judge in the midwestern state of Nebraska barred the government from enforcing the law in response to a lawsuit brought by four doctors who challenged its constitutionality.

Now Judge Casey has issued a similar restraining order at the request of seven doctors and the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which represents abortion clinics.

The ruling only applies to the plaintiffs, but NAF represents clinics, women's health centers and physicians in 47 states. Vicki Saporta, the head of the National Abortion Federation, says its members perform half of the abortions done in the United States.

"So the ban on the legislation is in effect throughout the country where our members are practicing. It does not necessarily cover other providers in those same states," she said.

Anti-abortion activists say the procedure, performed in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, preserves the rights of unborn children. Pro-choice advocates say the new prohibition is too broad and fails to protect women's health. Judge Casey's injunction is for 10 days. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement opposing the injunction and said it would use "every resource necessary" to defend legislation banning partial birth abortion.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled against a similar measure because it did not make an exception to protect a woman's health.

In his court injunction, Judge Casey said during a hearing Thursday that even the government made it clear that the medical community is uncertain about whether or not the procedure banned by the new legislation put a woman's health at risk.

The abortion issue has been a source of major controversy and confrontation in the United States since the Supreme Court first upheld the right to abortion in its landmark Roe versus Wade decision in 1973.