U.S. to Appeal Ruling

Against Abortion Ban

The Justice Department said yesterday that it will appeal a Nebraska judge's ruling striking down the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf declared the ban unconstitutional Sept. 8, saying it interferes with the right to an abortion and fails to allow exceptions when a woman's health is in danger.

The Justice Department said it will challenge the ruling on both counts before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. The law, signed by President Bush last year, bans a procedure that doctors call intact dilation and extraction and critics refer to as "partial birth" abortion.

The ban has not been enforced because three federal judges agreed to hear constitutional challenges in simultaneous non-jury trials. The dispute is expected by many legal experts to eventually reach the Supreme Court.

N.Y. Times Tries to Halt

Phone Records Probe

The New York Times asked a federal court yesterday to prevent the Justice Department from obtaining reporters' telephone company records as part of a leak investigation involving an Illinois-based charity suspected of links to terrorism.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the newspaper said that the government "is on the verge of obtaining telephone records containing confidential communications" between reporters Judith Miller and Philip Shenon and their sources and that "the records sought would likely reveal the identities of . . . dozens of confidential sources" unconnected to the probe.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald in Chicago, who is also acting as a special prosecutor in a separate probe involving the leak of a CIA officer's identity, is investigating whether anyone in government told Times reporters of a planned raid on the offices of the Global Relief Foundation in December 2001. The FBI believes that a call from a reporter to a representative of the charity may have led to the destruction of documents there the night before the government's raid, according to findings by the Sept. 11 commission.

Defibrillator Program's

Expansion Proposed

Medicare officials yesterday proposed expanding coverage for expensive cardiac defibrillators that are surgically implanted in patients who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. Officials projected that 77,000 Medicare patients would have the stopwatch-size devices implanted in 2005. That would be about a 50 percent increase from the 52,000 who received them in 2003.

About 500,000 Medicare beneficiaries, including some who have never had a heart attack, would be eligible for the defibrillator, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.

The proposal is based on new clinical studies, CMS officials said. A government-funded study earlier this year showed the technology significantly reduced deaths in patients with even mild heart disease. The device senses an irregularly beating heart and shocks it back into proper rhythm.

-- Compiled from reports by staff writer Dan Eggen and news services