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Supreme Court to Take on Second Abortion Case

The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider a second Bush administration appeal that seeks to reinstate a federal ban on partial-birth abortion.

Justices had already said they would decide this fall whether the law is unconstitutional.

The court will review a pair of cases from lower courts that struck down the law. Those courts are the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Congress had voted in 2003 to prohibit the type of abortion, generally carried out in the second or third trimester, in which a fetus is partially removed from the womb and its skull punctured or crushed. The law was challenged on behalf of physicians who could be sentenced to up to two years in prison for violating the law.

Justice Samuel Alito is expected to be a key vote in the case, because the court had split 5-4 in 2000 in striking down a state law barring the same procedure because it lacked an exception to protect the health of the mother. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the tie-breaking vote, retired in January and was replaced by Alito.

The cases are Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, 05-1382, and Gonzales v. Carhart, 05-380.