A federal judge today ruled the ban on partial-birth abortion, which President Bush signed into law last fall, is unconstitutional, issuing a permanent injunction against the statute.

“The act poses an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion,” U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton wrote in her decision.

The San Francisco case is one of three suits brought by abortion activists hoping to strike down the law. Hamilton’s ruling applies to Planned Parenthood clinics and their doctors, who perform roughly half the nation’s abortions, the Associated Press reported.

Bush signed the bill in November, saying, “A terrible form of violence has been directed against children who are inches from birth while the law looked the other way.”

“Intact dilation and extraction,” commonly known as partial-birth abortion, is usually performed in the second or third trimester and involves the unborn baby’s legs and torso being pulled out of the mother and its skull then being punctured and crushed after the brains are suctioned out.

Justice Department attorneys argued that the procedure is inhumane, causes pain to the fetus and is never medically necessary, whereas proponents of the practice claimed it is safer for the mother than the process where the baby is dismembered inside the womb before being removed.

The two other cases, in Nebraska and New York, are expected to conclude within weeks. The results of the three cases, which could conflict with each other, likely will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Opponents of Hamilton’s decision were quick to denounce it.

“The decision is disappointing, but not surprising,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, who is supporting efforts by the Department of Justice in defending the ban on partial-birth abortion. “The fact is the federal court in California refused to permit the United States to put forth a full evidentiary record concerning this barbaric procedure and the fact that there is no medical reason for it. This is the first stop on a lengthy legal road that ends at the Supreme Court of the United States. We’re confident that the national ban on this horrific procedure ultimately will be declared constitutional.”

Said National Right to Life’s Douglas Johnson: “Judge Hamilton’s deep personal hostility to the law has been evident throughout the judicial proceedings, and is evident in many passages in her 117-page injunction.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins called the ruling a “sign that courts are not afraid to ignore democratically enacted laws in favor of the abortion-on-demand agenda.

“The court was provided with ample evidence proving the law is constitutional,” Perkins said, “but this one judge, a Clinton appointee, has decided to ignore that evidence. Her decision is not simply a threat to unborn children, but to the democratic process.”

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Casey, who is hearing the New York case, has scheduled closing arguments in that trial for June 22.

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