Still a Need for Feminism

Court Upholds VA Abortion Ban,

Further Eroding Constitutional

Protections for Abortion Rights

New York, NY – Today, in a 6-5 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a Virginia law that threatens doctors with criminal penalties  for performing the most common method of second trimester abortion.The majority acknowledged that the ban will, in some circumstances, force physicians to stop a previability abortion mid-procedure, to the jeopardy of the patient’s health and well-being. Nonetheless, the court upheld the ban, further eroding the constitutional protections long given to women’s health.

“Today’s ruling is another stunning assault on women’s reproductive rights and on the doctors who provide abortion care,” said Stephanie Toti, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights who argued before the appellate court.  “Forcing doctors to compromise women’s health for the sake of a previable fetus with no potential for survival is an outrage.”

The court also suggested that the case was premature and that the challenge should not have been filed until a patient undergoing an abortion was experiencing an immediate health risk as a result of the ban.

Five of the eleven judges dissented from the decision,  pointing out that it “marks an alarming departure from settled Supreme Court precedent: it sanctions an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to choose.” In 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the Fourth Circuit to re-evaluate the constitutionality of the Virginia law after it upheld a more narrow federal ban in the Center’s case Gonzales v. Carhart.

In May of 2008, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit struck down the Virginia law finding that it was substantially broader than the federal law, such that “every time” a doctor set out to perform any standard second trimester abortion, “he faces the unavoidable risk of criminal prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment.”

The plaintiffs in the case, Richmond Medical Center v. Herring, are Richmond Medical Center, its staff, and patients. They are represented by Toti and Janet Crepps, deputy director of the U.S. legal program at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Help Protect Roe V Wade

Please take the next step with us and send a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy asking him to engage Judge Sonia Sotomayor and any future nominees to the Court on their commitment to the principles of Roe v. Wade.

How do I send a letter?

It’s easy! Just copy the comments that the Center for Reproductive Rights has drafted for you below and paste them here, or go to

Subject Line: Where does Judge Sotomayor stand on Roe?

Dear Senator Leahy,

I am joining the Center for Reproductive Rights today as it calls on you and the Senate Judiciary Committee to conduct a fair and open Supreme Court confirmation process. As an American citizen, I want to know that President Obama’s nominee Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor supports recognized constitutional rights, including a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

It’s critical that the Senate Judiciary Committee engage Judge Sotomayor and any future nominees to the Court on their commitment to the principles of Roe v. Wade. The last Supreme Court decision on abortion was 5 to 4 and diluted the constitutional protections for a woman’s right to abortion.

Now is the time for the Senate to stand up for a woman’s right to choose and to acknowledge the central role it plays. Anything short of that threatens not only a woman’s constitutional rights, but her life and health.

Thank you for your time and attention to this critical issue.

[Optional – add your additional comments here]

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