Appeals Court upholds Virginia's partial-birth abortion ban

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RICHMOND, Va. — In a 6 to 5 decision the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Virginia's partial-birth abortion ban. This decision reversed a 2-to-1 lower court ruling in May 2008 which struck down the ban.

In the opinion issued June 25, the 4th Circuit ruled that the partial-birth abortion ban—which prohibits killing an infant who has been born alive—was constitutional.

"A partially born child is among the weakest, most helpless beings in our midst and on that account exerts a special claim on our protection," wrote Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III in concurring with the majority opinion, which was written by Judge Paul V. Niemeyer.

Wilkinson wrote, "The fact is that we—civilized people—are retreating to the haven of our Constitution to justify dismembering a partly born child and crushing its skull. Surely centuries hence, people will look back on this gruesome practice done in the name of fundamental law by a society of high achievement. And they will shudder."

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council applauded the judges' comments in the majority opinion. "It is not everyday you hear judges argue for the defense of life in such clear, compelling words," said Perkins in a press release.

"No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless," said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence on the ADF Web site. "Virginia has legitimately chosen to protect innocent life from a terrible procedure, and the court was right to uphold Virginia's law. The (earlier) decision of the three-judge panel conflicted significantly with the Supreme Court's ruling two years ago that upheld the federal law banning partial birth abortion."

The six judges who voted to uphold the ban—Karen Williams, Harvie Wilkinson, Paul Niemeyer, Dennis Shedd, Allyson Duncan and Steve Agee— were appointed by Republican presidents. The five dissenters were appointed by Democrats: Blane Michael, Diana Gribbon Motz, William Traxler, Robert King and Roger Gregory.

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