Court Strikes Down Abortion Ban

Planned Parenthood Applauds Ruling That Protects Women's Health and Safety

SAN FRANCISCO — Today a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled unanimously that the federal abortion ban passed by Congress and signed by President Bush is unconstitutional because it fails to protect women's health, poses an undue burden on a woman's right to choose, and is unconstitutionally vague. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and Planned Parenthood Golden Gate (PPGG) applaud the 65-page ruling to uphold a lower court ruling striking down the law in its entirety.

The ban would outlaw abortions as early as 12 to 15 weeks in pregnancy, including those that doctors say are safe and the best to protect women's health. Major medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose the federal ban.

The Ninth Circuit issued today's ruling after fully considering the Supreme Court's recent decision in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and concluded that the flaws in the abortion ban cannot be corrected by a narrow injunction. They found "that the only appropriate remedy is to enjoin enforcement of the act" and affirm a permanent injunction of the whole law.

"This is a momentous day for the future of women's health and safety," said PPFA Interim President Karen Pearl. "While the Senate jeopardized women's health by confirming Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, our nation's judiciary reaffirmed the long-standing precedent that abortion laws must include protections for women's health or must be struck down entirely when they are unconstitutional."

It is likely that Justice Alito will soon have the opportunity to rule on the abortion ban. Just five years ago, the Supreme Court struck down an abortion ban passed by the state of Nebraska because it did not have a health exception, and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's was the critical fifth vote that upheld protections for women's health and safety. The court is expected to announce shortly whether it will hear Carhart v. Gonzales, another case challenging the federal abortion ban, and the Bush administration has 90 days to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Planned Parenthood v. Gonzales. With Justice Alito confirmed to replace Justice O'Connor, there is dire concern that the Supreme Court will swing in the opposite direction, with five justices who appear ready to undermine protections for women's health and safety, the core issue in all of the abortion ban cases.

"Decisions about women's health must be made by women with their doctors, not mandated by politicians or judges," PPGG President and CEO Dian Harrison said. "Planned Parenthood Golden Gate applauds the Ninth Circuit for supporting the findings of the lower courts in this matter."


Planned Parenthood Federation of America is the nation's leading sexual and reproductive health care advocate and provider. We believe that everyone has the right to choose when or whether to have a child, and that every child should be wanted and loved. Planned Parenthood affiliates operate more than 860 health centers nationwide, providing medical services and sexuality education for millions of women, men, and teenagers each year. We also work with allies worldwide to ensure that all women and men have the right and the means to meet their sexual and reproductive health care needs.


Erin Kiernon, 202-973-4973

Published: 01.31.06

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