Reproductive Rights Groups Ask Appeals Court to Uphold Ruling

October 26, 2006

CINCINNATI The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to uphold a lower court ruling striking down Michigan’s third attempt at a dangerous and extreme ban on abortion. The ban would prohibit nearly all abortions in the state and fails to provide an adequate exception to protect women’s health.

"This law dangerously interferes with medical practice, by preventing doctors from performing virtually all abortions, and stopping them from treating miscarriages,” said Brigitte Amiri, a Staff Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, who argued the case before the court today.  “We are confident that the court will put women’s health care first and stop this extreme measure from taking effect.”

In September 2005, a federal district court struck down the law in question, the Legal Birth Definition Act, saying it “creates a ban on actions at the heart of abortion procedures from the earliest stages of pregnancy, whether used to perform induced abortions or to treat pregnancy loss.”

The court also found that the Act fails to include protections for women’s health and contains an inadequate life exception.

“This ban is part of a larger anti-choice agenda to eliminate safe, legal abortions at any cost, including unashamedly endangering women’s health and lives,” said Sanford Cohen, Deputy Director of the domestic legal program at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Women, in consultation with their doctors, not politicians, should make decisions regarding pregnancy care.”
 
The Michigan legislature passed the abortion ban in 2004 despite federal courts striking down two similar bans in previous years.  In June 1996, the legislature passed its first abortion ban.  A year later, a federal judge declared that ban unconstitutional because it was vague and overbroad.  Similarly in 2001, a federal judge struck down a second ban for failing to include an exception to protect women’s health.

“Major medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose this ban,” said Sarah Scranton, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan.  “It’s time for the Michigan legislature to stop playing politics with women’s lives.

The plaintiffs in the case are Northland Family Planning Clinic, Inc., Summit Medical Center, Planned Parenthood Mid-Michigan Alliance, Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, and a group of individual physicians. 

Today’s case is Northland Family v. Cox, Case Numbers 05-2417 and 05-2418.  The plaintiffs are represented by Amiri and Talcott Camp of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Michael J. Steinberg and Kary Moss of the ACLU of Michigan; Eve Gartner and Roger Evans of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Sanford Cohen of the Center for Reproductive Rights; and David Nacht of David A. Nacht, P.C.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the plaintiffs.

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