A doctor testifying for the Department of Justice in the trial challenging the Partial-Birth Abortion Act has admitted that there are occasions when the procedures banned by the Act may be medically necessary to protect a woman’s health.

The news, reported by Kevin O’Hanlon for The Associated Press, is considered a victory for challengers of the ban on partial-birth abortion, led by lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing Nebraska abortion provider Dr. LeRoy Carhart and three other physicians.

Dr. Elizabeth Shadigian, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of Michigan, set out to testify this week that it is never medically necessary to perform the procedure D and X, generally performed in the second trimester, in which the skull of the fetus is punctured or crushed.

However, after extensive questioning from the U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf, presiding over the case in Lincoln, Neb., Shadigian admitted that if D and E, the alternative procedure, was ineffective and became dangerous to the woman, it would not violate the standard of care to collapse the skull in order to protect the woman’s health.

In a D and E, also commonly used in the second trimester, a woman’s cervix is dilated and the fetus removed via a combination of suction and forceps.

Shadigian’s admission reveals the similarity between two medical procedures used to terminate a woman’s pregnancy. The organizations challenging the law say both that there is no such thing as partial-birth abortions and the definition in the law for what is banned could include many procedures used to end pregnancies after 12 weeks.

Ellen Sweet, spokesperson for the Center for Reproductive Rights, says that Shadigian’s testimony drew out the reality that the Partial-Birth Abortion Act would ban procedures that were medically necessary to protect a pregnant woman’s health.

“Basically, what I think her testimony proved is that this federal law would ban abortion procedures in the second trimesters that doctors say are safe and among the best to protect women’s health,” says Sweet. “And these procedures are used as early as 12-15 weeks of pregnancy.”


A Catholic archbishop has banned women from participating in Holy Thursday foot-washing rituals in Roman Catholic churches in Atlanta.

Archbishop John Donoghue of Atlanta issued a letter to all of his parishes stating that only 12 men at each parish should be selected for the ritual, The Associated Press reported.

The ritual represents Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper and is offered to girls, women, and men in most archdioceses or dioceses around the states. This is the second time, however, that Archbishop Donoghue has banned women from the ritual, issuing a similar ban in Charlotte, N.C. 15 years ago.

Donoghue has been in charge in Atlanta for since 1993. Women have participated in the holy ritual in Atlanta up until now.

Catholic bishops and archbishops were unavailable for comment on Friday, due to the observance of Good Friday. However, a statement on the Web site for the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ reads: “It has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite of recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the church and to the world.”

The Atlanta Nation reported that 100 men and women protested the ban outside the Cathedral of Christ the King on Thursday as Archbishop Donoghue carried out the ritual on male bishops inside.

— Emma Pearse.