The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split 6-5 today in upholding the constitutionality of Virginia’s partial-birth abortion law.
The votes in the case will underscore the arguments of those who stress the importance of the President in shaping the country’s judiciary.
All six members of the majority were appointed by Republicans, and all the minority judges were appointed by Democrats. President Barack Obama has an opportunity to appoint four more judges to the court, which has an authorized strength of 15.
The majority rejected the contention of the Richmond Medical Center for Women and a Richmond obstetrician that the act is unconstitutional because it fails to include an exception for the preservation of the mother’s health and defines “partial birth infanticide” so broadly that it criminalizes the safest and most common method of second-semester abortion.
The Virginia law cannot be distinguished in any relevant way from the a federal partial-birth abortion law that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2007, the majority said.
The Virginia law was enacted in 2003 but invalidated by an earlier 4th Circuit opinion that was appealed to the Supreme Court. After ruling on the federal act, the Supreme Court remanded the Virginia case to the 4th Circuit for consideration in light of its decision on the federal law.
By Alan Cooper