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Va. Abortion Clinics Remain Open

July 2, 1998

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia abortion clinics remained open for business despite a new state law banning a type of late-term procedure.

The law took effect Wednesday, hours after being spared from a court injunction by a federal appeals judge.

Abortion clinics and doctors obtained the injunction a week ago from U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne, who agreed the law was so vague that it would outlaw common abortion procedures.

His order would have kept the law off the books pending a court challenge.

But the state attorney general’s office appealed the injunction to Judge J. Michael Luttig of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, and he reversed Payne’s order.

The new law bans the procedure in which the fetus is partly delivered through the birth canal and then destroyed.

Under Virginia’s law, doctors who perform this type of abortion except to save a pregnant woman’s life could be jailed for a year and fined $2,500.

Some abortion providers said they feared Luttig’s action could subject them to prosecution, but they were willing to risk it to stay open.

Suzette Caton, spokeswoman at Norfolk’s Hillcrest Clinic, said she was also relying on the state’s pledge not to prosecute people who perform abortions other than the late-term procedure.

``We’re willing to take the risk that they will not break their word,″ Ms. Caton said.

Abortion providers said they were not sure whether they would appeal Luttig’s decision before their lawsuit challenging the law on constitutional grounds goes to trial Aug. 18.

Twenty-eight states have adopted similar laws since 1995, though courts have blocked enforcement of those laws in 16 of those states.

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