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Federal appeals court considers Virginia 'partial-birth' abortion ban

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard arguments Thursday on whether a 2003 Virginia law banning so-called partial-birth abortions is constitutional. In a 2-1 split in 2005, a panel of judges on the same court ruled the law unconstitutional [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] because it lacked an an exception to protect the mother's health. Virginia Solicitor General William E. Thro appealed that ruling in light of a Supreme Court decision [text; JURIST report] earlier this year upholding a similar federal law [PDF text] which also lacks a health exception. Lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the Virginia law is distinct and still unconstitutional. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has more.

The D&E abortion procedure is often called "partial-birth" abortion [JURIST news archive] by abortion opponents because the undeveloped fetus is partially extracted from the uterus before the abortion is performed. In June, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down a Michigan "partial-birth" abortion ban [JURIST report], because it deviated from the express limitations established in the April Supreme Court decision.

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