Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

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The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is a federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1531, that bans partial-birth abortion, also referred to as intact dilation and extraction, to terminate a pregnancy. In passing the statute, Congress found that “[a] moral, medical, and ethical consensus exists that the practice of performing a partial-birth abortion. . . is a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary and should be prohibited.”

The statute, in § 1531(b)(1)(A), defines partial-birth abortion as an abortion where a physician “deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother, for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus;” and the physician in fact kills the fetus. A physician who performs a partial-birth abortion may be fined or imprisoned for a maximum of two years. § 1531(e) provides for conspiracy liability for the pregnant person who solicited a partial-birth abortion. However, § 1531(a), excludes criminal liability for the performance of partial-birth abortions that are “necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.” 

[Last updated in April of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]