By Gail Appleson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday ruled against the government's ban on so-called partial birth abortions, saying the measure signed into law last year by President Bush was unconstitutional.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Casey of Manhattan followed a similar decision by a San Francisco judge in June that barred the U.S. Justice Department from enforcing the ban.
A Justice Department spokesman had no immediate comment on the New York ruling. Earlier this month, the department said it would appeal the San Francisco court ruling.
Casey said a Supreme Court ruling held that the only way "this gruesome procedure" may be outlawed is if there was a "medical consensus" there was no circumstance in which any woman could benefit from it.
"While Congress and lower courts may disagree with the Supreme Court's constitutional decision, that does not free them from their constitutional duty to obey the Supreme Court's rulings," Casey said.
Abortion providers, who sued to overturn the law, argued its language was so vague and broad it applied to a range of abortions performed as early as 13 weeks into a pregnancy.
They said the ban was also unconstitutional because it lacked an exception that would allow the procedure to protect a woman's health.
Proponents of the ban said it applied only to one kind of late-term procedure involving the destruction of a "living fetus" that is at least partially outside the mother's body. The government maintains the procedure is not only medically unnecessary but an "inhumane procedure that causes pain to the fetus."