The hearing in front of the full U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on the constitutionality of Virginia's law banning partial birth abortion — or infanticide — was heard in front of a packed courtroom this morning, starting at 9:00 (see Richmond Times-Dispatch article). So packed, that several extra chairs were brought in and people still were standing, crowding each other along the wall. Several late arrivers were left to stand outside, with a couple trying to peek through the door window. William Thro, Virginia's former solicitor general, who has argued this case at each stage of appeal (see previous commentary that explains the case), argued for the commonwealth, although he recently accepted the job as university counsel at Christopher Newport University. He was bombarded with questions by judges Blane Michael and Diana Motz (see previous commentary). Those two were the majority on the three judge panel (see previous commentary) that heard the previous appeal of this case around this time last year (a federal district judge originally ruled the law unconstitutional). Judge Motz wrote the opinion (see previous commentary). Judge Roger Gregory joined them in adversarial questioning of Mr. Thro. There are 11 judges on the full court.

On the other hand, there seemed to be enough interest in sustaining the law from Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, Chief Judge Karen Williams, Judge Robert King and perhaps Judge Steven Agee, especially as they questioned the attorney representing the pro-abortion appellees.

We'll have a more detailed analysis later this afternoon. We are about to hear from Mr. Thro who will review the case to a luncheon sponsored by Americans United for Life.

For the opinion from the panel's decision, which includes Judge Neimeyer's dissent, click here.