RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court on Friday blocked Virginia's late-term abortion law, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a similar statute in Nebraska.
A three-judge panel unanimously rescinded a previous ruling allowing enforcement of the law while a lawsuit challenging it on constitutional grounds was pending. The 1998 law banned a procedure that abortion opponents call partial-birth abortion.
Judge Michael Luttig, who issued the earlier ruling allowing enforcement of the law, wrote in Friday's opinion that the Supreme Court has "unequivocally held that any ban on partial-birth abortion must include an exception for the health of the mother in order to be constitutional. The commonwealth's statute . . . does not include such an exception."
Abortion rights advocates cheered the decision.
"(This) confirms what we have said all along — the Virginia law is deceptive and extreme," Simon Heller of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, which represents the plaintiffs, said in a written statement.
State Attorney General Mark Earley said in a statement that he accepted the court's decision but still intends to work with the General Assembly to pass legislation banning late-term abortions.