Partial-Birth Abortion Bill Goes to Virginia Governor

Might Set Example for Other States

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RICHMOND, Virginia, MARCH 10, 2002 ( Legislation that would ban partial-birth abortion in Virginia is headed for the governor´s desk.

If Governor Mark Warner signs it, Virginia could be the first state to outlaw the procedure since the Supreme Court ruling three years ago voided restrictions that had been adopted by 31 states, the Associated Press reported.

Several states are already considering legislation similar to Virginia´s, said the bill´s sponsor, Delegate Robert G. Marshall.

Warner, a Democrat, would support a ban on partial-birth abortions, but only if it could be upheld in court, said governor´s spokesman Kevin Hall. The state attorney general´s office has expressed doubts about the bill´s constitutionality, but the office neither supported nor opposed it.

The Senate voted 26-12 Thursday to bar the partial-birth abortion procedure. Abortion-rights groups say the ban is an unconstitutional effort to block the procedure and to restrict abortions.

The bill resembles a 1998 Virginia law that banned the partial-birth procedure. That law was voided by a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a similar Nebraska law as unconstitutional.

The new legislation allows the procedure only when a pregnancy puts a woman at serious risk of death or «irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.» Women could not be prosecuted under the bill, but doctors who violate its provisions could be punished with fines up to $100,000 and 10 years in prison.

Marshall, sponsor of the bill, said the measure is defensible because it is much more specific than the law the Supreme Court struck down.

The House passed the bill 75-25 in February, well beyond the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto. The Senate´s final 26-12 vote is one vote short of the number needed for an override if Warner rejects the bill.

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