Opponents of the congressional ban on a type of late-term abortion filed three federal lawsuits Friday seeking to block legislation they say threatens the health and constitutional rights of women.
The bill, expected to be signed by President Bush on Wednesday, would ban certain types of abortion procedures on fetuses that are roughly 14 weeks or older, doctors say. Opponents of the procedures call them "partial-birth" abortions.
"President Bush intends to put the health and welfare of women in jeopardy," said Dian Harrison of Planned Parenthood, whose group announced a lawsuit in San Francisco.
Friday's legal actions were an unusual move by Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union, because they were lodged before the measure became law.
"We want the judge to be in a position to issue an order as soon as the bill is signed," said Priscilla Smith, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Smith filed her case in federal court in Omaha on behalf of physicians, and the ACLU sought a similar order in New York. Planned Parenthood's lawsuit was on behalf of that group and those seeking such abortions.
The National Right to Life Committee blasted the groups for filing the lawsuits.
"These groups argue that Roe v. Wade guarantees the right to deliver most of a living premature infant, in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, and then shove scissors through her skull," said Douglas Johnson, the group's legislative director.
The bill imposes the most far-reaching limits on abortion since the Supreme Court in 1973 confirmed a woman's constitutional right to end a pregnancy. Supporters contend it applies only to a procedure done late in pregnancy that is never necessary to protect the health of the mother.
Under the bill, similar to one in Nebraska that the Supreme Court struck down three years ago, a woman cannot undertake the procedure even if her health is at risk or if the child would be born with ailments.