Prolife groups had predicted it: the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is now almost completely unenforceable. Two judges, one in New York and another in San Francisco, ordered temporary injunctions only hours after President Bush signed it into law. The injunction will last until November 21, when lawyers will argue whether it should be extended.

The New York suit was filed before the law was even signed on behalf of the National Abortion Federation, which has clinics in almost every state. The Federation says it performs almost half of all abortions nationwide, has 350 clinics in 47 states, and treats about 700,000 women every year.

The San Francisco ruling, the third against the ban since Wednesday, "affects doctors at 900 Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide," reported the Los Angles Times. "Added to the New York decision, it will protect a majority of all abortion providers in the United States, activists said."

The arguments are the same that abortion-rights groups have been making all along: there is no exception for the health of the mother, the language is too broad, and may apply to other abortion procedures. Also, New York judge Richard Conway Casey "wrote in a three-page order that the network had proved that it would suffer irreparable harm without an order blocking enforcement of the new law," according to The New York Times.

Of course, before the ban was law, abortion-rights groups argued that the procedure was extremely rare. "The two sides of the debate differ about the frequency of such procedures," says the Los Angles Times. "The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, estimated about 2,200 dilation-and-extraction abortions were performed in 2,000, up from 363 in 1996." Weblog could find no news reports explaining why not performing partial-birth abortions on 2,000 of 700,000 women "treated" would cause "irreparable harm" to abortion clinics nationwide.

"The plaintiffs had also argued that the language of the ban is unconstitutionally broad and puts doctors at risk for performing other types of abortions," reports Reuters. This is how the bill defines partial-birth abortion:

an abortion in which a physician deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living, unborn child's body until either the entire baby's head is outside the body of the mother, or any part of the baby's trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother and only the head remains inside the womb, for the purpose of performing an overt act (usually the puncturing of the back of the child's skull and removing the baby's brains) that the person knows will kill the partially delivered infant, performs this act, and then completes delivery of the dead infant—is a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary and should be prohibited.
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Weblog is unsure how that description is "vague" or could be confused with other "safe" procedures. Or how a ban on it could be called "dangerous" by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Justice Department said that it "will continue to strongly defend the law prohibiting partial birth abortions using every resource necessary." The entire press release is available here.

Los Angeles yanks grant to Azusa Pacific over religious hiring
Cal State L.A. had planned out an early education program for a Los Angeles county government agency, but didn't want to fully implement it at the school. Administrators suggested that the agency pitch the plan to Azusa Pacific University, a Christian college.

Administrators at the Azusa were eager to take the plan, which came with $3.4 million from the child development agency, First 5 LA. And they were very forthright about being a Christian university. "We hadn't been hiding the ball," Mark Dickerson, chief counsel for Azusa Pacific, told the Los Angeles Times. "We did point out to them [in September] that we are a faith-based organization and we do require all our employees, faculty or staff to sign a statement of faith," he said.

"This is not our concern," program officer Marlene Tarumoto-Sugita responded in an e-mail message. "We leave that up to you."

But a threatened ACLU suit on behalf of a prospective employee who refused to sign the document apparently changed the agency's mind, and First 5 LA cancelled the program with Azusa.

Hmm. So one of the best qualified schools to run a program can't because it wants to preserve the identity that makes it one of the best qualified schools—and that's called a victory against discrimination.

Y'all come back
Notice something missing this week in Weblog? We've been so busy we've had to skip the reams of "more news" links. But now we're reaping the whirlwind, and trying to compile them all for a posting this afternoon. Yikes. So if you want a list of hundreds of religion news stories, please come back. We'd hate to do all this work for nothing.

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