WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania got permission from a federal appeals court yesterday to enforce its laws against abortion, apparently putting more pregnant women under legal restrictions than at any time since the Supreme Court established abortion rights 21 years ago.
Some 90 clinics and other medical facilities in Pennsylvania, serving thousands of women, must begin obeying abortion laws enacted in 1988 and 1989 as soon as a federal judge and state health officials issue paperwork.
Only three other states are now enforcing abortion limitations like Pennsylvania's: Kansas, Mississippi and Nebraska. Some 50,000 women in Pennsylvania had abortions last year; about the same number will be affected annually by the laws, said Kathryn Kolbert, vice president of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy.
State Attorney General Ernest D. Preate Jr. said, "This is a moderate, reasonable law that has been found to be constitutional four times over the last two years and that is overwhelmingly supported by the people of Pennsylvania." He said enforcement could begin in a few days. Ms. Kolbert, however, said her organization would ask the Supreme Court on Monday morning for a delay.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reacting to a plea by Pennsylvania officials that "enough is enough" in a long fight over implementation of the laws there, refused to delay their enforcement. Under the Pennsylvania laws, women must wait 24 hours before getting an abortion and must listen to a lecture about the nature of the fetus and the risks of abortion; and teen-agers living with their parents must get the consent of a parent or a state judge for an abortion.