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New challenge to abortion curbs OK'd


PHILADELPHIA -- A U.S. District Court judge in Reading, Pa., gave Planned Parenthood a new opportunity yesterday to challenge a state law restricting abortions.

Judge Daniel H. Huyett III said in his ruling that although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Pennsylvania's 1989 abortion law last year, the decision set a new standard for judging the constitutionality of abortion laws, so the case should be re-examined under that standard.

In its ruling last June in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the court moved away from the previous test of constitutionality: that states must show a compelling reason for abortion.

Instead, the justices adopted a standard that said restrictions would be considered constitutional as long as they did not place an undue burden on women seeking abortions.

Judge Huyett's ruling essentially gives Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania a chance to try to show that Pennsylvania's law does constitute an undue burden.

Pennsylvania's 1989 law, which has not been enforced pending the outcome of court cases, requires that women under the age of 18 obtain parental consent or a court order before having an abortion.

The law also requires a woman to get pre-abortion counseling from a doctor, who would discuss alternatives and the risks posed by the procedure. After the counseling session, a woman would have to wait 24 hours before going ahead with an abortion.

Judge Huyett wrote in his opinion that he had decided to reopen the case now, rather than follow the usual practice of considering objections after a law takes effect, because "women who were deterred from exercising their right in the interim period would suffer unnecessary and irreparable harm, considering the temporary nature of a woman's ability to exercise her constitutional right to choose an abortion."

Advocates of women's right to abortion applauded the decision. "We'll take the victories wherever we can," said Kathryn Kolbert, vice president of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in Manhattan and the lawyer who argued the case for Planned Parenthood.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Ernest D. Preate Jr. said he expected to appeal the decision.

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