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Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood

Hearing date: November 8

At issue: Whether a federal ban on a second-trimester abortion procedure critics call "partial-birth" is unconstitutional because it lacks a health exception.

The cases and arguments: U.S. appeals courts have ruled against the government, saying the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 was unconstitutional because it did not provide a health exception to pregnant women facing a medical emergency. The ban effects two types of procedures generally performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. The law has never gone into effect, pending the outcome of more than two years of legal appeals.

The impact: The votes of the two newest justices, Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts, could offer an important legal barometer on whether the overall right to abortion may be in jeopardy in coming years.



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