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Groups sue to block abortion procedure ban

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two abortion rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed lawsuits to try to block the recently passed ban on a late-term abortion procedure from taking effect. The White House says President Bush intends to sign it on Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court Friday to block the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act as unconstitutional. Doctors call the procedure intact dilation and extraction.

At a news conference Friday in San Francisco, the organization said the lawsuit "seeks an injunction against enforcement of the act and a declaration that it is unconstitutional."

It is also seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent the act from taking effect.

Congress passed the federal ban October 20 and it has been sent to President Bush.

"This dangerous ban prevents women, in consultation with their families and doctors, from making decisions about their own health," PPFA President Gloria Feldt said. "We hope the court will recognize the unconstitutionality of this ban and strike it down."

The lawsuit, PPFA v. Attorney General John Ashcroft, says the ban is unconstitutional for the same reason that the U.S. Supreme Court declared Nebraska's so-called partial-birth abortion ban legislation unconstitutional in Stenberg v. Carhart -- because it lacks a health exception and its intentionally broad language imposes an "undue burden" on a woman's right to choose abortion.

But Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, a chief sponsor of the measure, said it had met those constitutional questions by tightening the definition and offering extensive findings that the procedure was never needed to protect the health of the mother.

Legal challenges had been expected after Congress passed the measure, the first federal limit on a type of abortion since the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 that upheld a woman's right to abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union also filed a lawsuit Friday in a Federal Court in New York to block what it termed "a dangerous and deceptive ban on safe abortion procedures."

The National Abortion Federation, Dr. LeRoy Carhart and several physicians joined in a separate lawsuit in a federal court in Nebraska, where Carhart challenged a similar abortion ban and won in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.

"This deceptive and extreme measure sacrifices women's health in the name of a broad anti-choice agenda to demonize abortion," said Louise Melling, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "The federal government has no business making it a crime for doctors to provide the best care possible to women who need abortions."

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