NEW YORK -- A federal judge declared the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional because it does not contain an exception to protect a woman's health, something the Supreme Court said is required in laws prohibiting types of abortion.
U.S. District Judge Richard C. Casey issued his ruling Thursday -- the second such ruling in three months -- even as he called the procedure "gruesome, brutal, barbaric and uncivilized."
The law, signed last November, banned a procedure known to doctors as intact dilation and extraction and called partial-birth abortion by abortion foes. The fetus is partially removed from the womb, and the skull is punctured or crushed.
Louise Melling, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, said her group was thrilled by the ruling. "We can only hope as we have decision after decision after decision striking these bans, saying they endanger women's health, that the legislatures will finally stop," she said.
On June 1, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco also found the law unconstitutional, saying it violates a woman's right to choose an abortion. A judge in Lincoln, Neb., has yet to rule.
Peterson murder trial
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- Testimony in Scott Peterson's murder trial returned to what investigators found in his computers as prosecutors try to prove Peterson researched the San Francisco Bay before dumping his pregnant wife's body there.
Lydell Wall of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department testified in early August about search engine results on hard drives from computers seized from Peterson's home and office. On Thursday, he continued testifying that Peterson searched sales ads for used boats on Dec. 7-8, 2002, just weeks before his wife vanished. Peterson also searched Web sites for fishing information, currents in San Francisco Bay and details on boat ramps in the area.
Wall is due back on the stand Monday, when investigator Steven Jacobson is also set to return.
Jacobson testified earlier Thursday that he recorded numerous phone calls in which Scott Peterson may have lied about his whereabouts in the weeks after Dec. 24, 2002, when his pregnant wife vanished. But Jacobson acknowledged the wiretaps did not capture all of Peterson's calls.
Claim isn't aboutmoney, accuser says
CHICAGO -- The woman accusing William Kennedy Smith of sexually assaulting her five years ago says her goal is to stop his alleged behavior -- not collect money.
Audra Soulias, 28, filed a civil lawsuit against Smith, 43, claiming he bought her drinks while she was celebrating her birthday in January 1999 and later took her to his house, dragged her upstairs and assaulted her.
"This is not about money. I do not wish to see one more woman victimized by this individual," Soulias said at a news conference Thursday. "Enough is enough."
Smith, who was cleared of rape charges in Florida in 1991, said Soulias demanded a $3 million payoff in exchange for not going to court. He said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed Wednesday that "family and personal history have made me unusually vulnerable to these kinds of charges."
In a statement following his accuser's new conference, Smith accused Soulias' lawyer of presenting "baseless claims in the most sensationalistic manner. While I did date Ms. Soulias for several months in 1999, the accusations being made are absolutely false and misleading."
Expedition seeks recordof the planet's climate
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Scientists believe a 50-million-year record of the Earth's climate lies in an underwater mountain chain in the ice-clogged waters near the North Pole.
Beginning this month, an international team is drilling deep into the Arctic Ocean ridge for the first time, in a technically complex effort to extract sediment that will provide a climatic history, and may help explain how humans are changing the planet.
"Think of it as a book," said Kate Moran, an associate professor in the ocean engineering department at the University of Rhode Island and a co-chair of the Arctic Coring Expedition. "We're turning back the pages of time."
Scientists have wanted to make this trip for decades, but have never had the combination of ice-breaking ships and advanced drilling equipment used by the oil industry to pull it off.
For much of the expedition, which is expected to end in mid-September, researchers will be perched above the Lomonosov Ridge, about 155 miles from the North Pole. They'll drill three 1,640-foot holes beneath the sea floor to extract the sediments needed to get a complete historical record. The cores will be taken to the University of Bremen, in Germany, for further analysis.