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Judge refuses to hold up new abortion law

Failure to grant a restraining order on the law may delay some second-trimester procedures, critics say.

By Compiled from staff, wire reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2000

MIAMI -- A federal judge denied an organization's request Friday for an emergency restraining order to stop a law from being enforced that bans a type of late-term abortion.

The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state law enacted only a day before, but U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard said the issue should be decided after hearing from the state's lawyers.

The state was not able to attend the hastily arranged hearing. The judge scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.

Lawyers representing abortion clinics and doctors warned that women scheduled for second-trimester abortions may not be able to get them for at least the next four days, until a hearing is held. Gov. Jeb Bush signed the ban into law Thursday.

Charlene Carres, a Tallahassee lawyer representing abortion doctors and clinics, argues that the new law is written so broadly that it could cover second-term abortion procedures other than so-called "partial-birth" abortions.

Proponents of the ban dispute that, saying it is narrowly drawn. Still, Carres predicts that doctors, who face a second-degree felony charge for performing the banned procedure, will stop performing all second-term abortions until either an injunction is in place or the courts clear up the matter.

"That's a real issue because generally when women are seeking second-term abortions, it's because of their health or the health of the fetus," Carres said.

Doctors who perform the procedure, which is medically known as dilation and extraction or D&X, could be sentenced if convicted to 15 years in prison and fined $10,000.

Bush was in Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning to sign technology reform legislation, but his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Hirst, later said, "The governor is hopeful that the court will agree that this is a particularly gruesome act, typically performed late in a woman's pregnancy and is not typically tied specifically to the health of the mother."

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