The full Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today agreed to hear Attorney General Bob McDonnell's appeal of a ruling by a three-judge panel of the court which ruled Virginia's partial birth abortion law unconstitutional. Oral arguments will be heard almost a year to the day the panel heard the case. This is welcome and good news. One interesting aspect of the case is that the Fourth Circuit has a new judge, nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate this spring: former Republican Delegate from Salem and Virginia Supreme Court Justice Steven Agee. Although our scorecards were not as in-depth as they are today, a look back at our 1991 Voting Index, as it was called then, shows two pro-life issues, both of which he voted for. No cases on this issue came before the Virginia Supreme Court during his tenure there. Below is the news release issued by Attorney General McDonnell: 

Full Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Agrees to Rehear Partial Birth Abortion Case

- Attorney General Bob McDonnell Requested Rehearing-

Richmond - The full Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell's request that the full court hear the case challenging the constitutionality of Virginia's ban on partial birth infanticide.

In 2005, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit ruled — by a vote of 2-1 —that the statute-passed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly in 2003 was unconstitutional. Then Attorney General Judith Williams Jagdmann asked the Supreme Court of the United States to review the decision. In 2007, after upholding the federal partial birth abortion act, the high court vacated the Fourth Circuit panel's 2005 decision, and sent back the issue to the Fourth Circuit for reconsideration.

On May 20th of this year a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit — again by the vote of 2-1 — ruled that the statute was unconstitutional. On May 30th Attorney General McDonnell announced that he would ask the full court to reconsider the ruling.

The Attorney General's brief requesting a rehearing by the full court can be read here: http://www.vaag.com/LEGAL_LEGIS/CourtFilings/03-1821-Petition%20for%20Rehearing%20En%20Banc.pdf

Speaking about today's granting of a rehearing by the full court, Attorney General McDonnell noted, "I am pleased by today's decision that the full Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear this case for the first time. Virginia's partial-birth infanticide ban was passed into law by an overwhelming majority of our elected representatives in the General Assembly. Additionally, it is substantively similar to the federal partial birth abortion ban that was recently upheld by the United States Supreme Court. I am hopeful that the full court will overturn the earlier divided panel decision , and Virginia's partial birth infanticide ban will be found to be constitutional."

Oral argument in this case has been tentatively scheduled for October 28-31 of this year.