Attorney General John Ashcroft filed a motion in U.S. District Court in New York to bar five physicians challenging the recent federal ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortions from testifying unless they produce patient medical records. In a case before the court, seven doctors and the National Abortion Federation are attempting to overturn the ban, arguing that the procedure to terminate late-term pregnancies is sometimes medically necessary. Saying he wants to evaluate the medical necessity of the procedures, Ashcroft has subpoenaed the doctors, seven hospitals and six Planned Parenthood clinics for patient records, with patient-identifying information redacted. Five of the hospitals have moved to quash the subpoenas on privacy grounds, while the other two have told Ashcroft the procedures aren't performed there. "Despite (the) admission that their medical records are relevant to test their claims that partial-birth abortion is a medically necessary procedure, plaintiffs continue to hide behind third-party hospital efforts to block discovery of those records," Ashcroft said in his motion. At deadline, it was unclear why Ashcroft did not ask the court to bar all seven physicians from testifying; all seven remain plaintiffs in the case. -- by Mark Taylor
U.S. ups pressure for partial-birth abortion papers
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