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Appeals court OKs partial-birth bans in 2 states; justices’ review more lik

WASHINGTON (BP)–The legal fate of the grisly technique known as partial-birth abortion has moved a step closer to consideration by the country’s highest court.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld laws in Illinois and Wisconsin prohibiting the procedure in a decision announced Oct. 26. The vote by the full panel was 5-4.
That ruling clashes with ones in late September by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel struck down partial-birth abortion bans in Arkansas, Iowa and Nebraska.
“This makes it likely that the Supreme Court will rule, perhaps next year, on whether Roe v. Wade covers” the partial-birth procedure, said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, in a written statement.
Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
The procedure prohibited by the bans reached public awareness earlier in this decade and is typically performed in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. As practiced by some abortion doctors, it involves the delivery of an intact baby feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the baby’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain. The collapse of the skull enables easier removal of the dead child.
“This is wonderful news for our unborn citizens who will at least have the protection of the law from being murdered in their mother’s womb at or near viability outside the womb in the jurisdiction” of the Seventh Circuit, said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“Clearly the Supreme Court must eventually resolve this conflict between differing federal courts of appeals. I urge every Southern Baptist and all others who are outraged at this partial-birth infanticide to pray daily for our Supreme Court justices that when this issue reaches their jurisdiction they will resolve it by affirming life for all of our preborn citizens.”
While the Seventh and Eight circuits have rendered opinions, appeals of decisions on partial-birth abortion bans are pending in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth circuits, according to NRLC. The Eighth Circuit ruled the laws constituted an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions and were too broad.
Though 27 states have passed partial-birth prohibitions, only eight were in effect before the Seventh Circuit’s decision. Nearly all of the others have been struck down or blocked by courts. The bans in effect are in Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia, according to NRLC.
The release of the Seventh Circuit’s opinion followed by only five days Senate passage of a federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The 63-34 vote was the third time senators have approved the measure. President Clinton vetoed the bill the two previous times. He is expected to again if the House of Representatives passes the bill, as it appears it will early next year.
Both times, the House has gained the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto, but the Senate has fallen short, the last time by three votes. This year’s Senate vote again fell short of a veto-proof majority.
Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said she was “shocked” by the Seventh Circuit’s decision and promised to fight the ban in the courts.
While Land and Feldt contrasted sharply in their reactions to the opinion, the abortion opponent and advocate agreed on one thing — the impact of elections on the future of abortion.
“It is increasingly clear that the ballot box is the best solution to the legislatures’ continuing assault on reproductive health and rights,” Feldt said in a written release.
The latest ruling, Land said, “underscores once again the critical importance of voting only for presidents who will nominate only pro-life federal judges and justices and voting only for senators who will confirm only pro-life federal judges and justices.”