What next for Virginia’s “partial-birth abortion” law? The typically conservative 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the 2003 law for the second time on Tuesday — even though the Supreme Court had ordered it to re-examine its earlier ruling in light of its own 2007 decision upholding a similar federal law.

Tuesday’s decision was not actually a surprise. As previewed in Legal Times last October, abortion rights advocates were optimistic in part because the case was going to be heard by the same panel that had struck it down the first time — M. Blane Michael and Diane Gribbon Motz, viewed as liberals, and conservative Paul Niemeyer. Sure enough, on Tuesday Michael and Motz voted as they had before, and Niemeyer dissented again.

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