Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A victory for the innocent and defenseless

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In the midst of the terrible news of the carnage and death at Virginia Tech was a small ray of hope from the Supreme Court. The court upheld the federal ban on partial birth abortion. Surprise of all surprises, the majority decision was written by Justice Kennedy. Here's some of the story from Mark Sherman of the Associated Press.

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court's new conservative majority gave anti-abortion forces a landmark victory Wednesday in a 5-4 decision that bans a controversial abortion procedure nationwide and sets the stage for further restrictions. It was a long-awaited and resounding win that abortion opponents had hoped to gain from a court pushed to the right by President Bush's appointees.

For the first time since the court established a woman's right to an abortion in 1973, the justices said the Constitution permits a nationwide prohibition on a specific abortion method. The court's liberal justices, in dissent, said the ruling chipped away at abortion rights. The 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.

Siding with Kennedy were Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The law is constitutional despite not containing an exception that would allow the procedure if needed to preserve a woman's health, Kennedy said. "The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice," he wrote in the majority opinion.

Doctors who violate the law could face up to two years in federal prison. The law has not taken effect, pending the outcome of the legal fight. In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling "cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court."

Dr. LeRoy Carhart, the Bellevue, Neb., doctor who challenged the federal ban, said, "I am afraid the Supreme Court has just opened the door to an all-out assault on" the 1973 ruling in Roe. Wade. The administration defended the law as drawing a bright line between abortion and infanticide. Reacting to the ruling, Bush said that it affirms the progress his administration has made to defend the "sanctity of life."

"I am pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that prohibits the abhorrent procedure of partial birth abortion," he said. "Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America." ...

More than 1 million abortions are performed in the United States each year, according to recent statistics. Nearly 90 percent of those occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and are not affected by Wednesday's ruling. The Guttmacher Institute says 2,200 dilation and extraction procedures — the medical term most often used by doctors — were performed in 2000, the latest figures available. Six federal courts have said the law that was in focus Wednesday is an impermissible restriction on a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. ...

The procedure at issue involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman's uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion. Abortion opponents say the law will not reduce the number of abortions performed because an alternate method — dismembering the fetus in the uterus — is available and, indeed, much more common.

4 comments:

Jon said...

A victory? No, its not much of a victory. It merely marks a move towards cutting off the weed at the ground, but removing the weed would probably require pulling it up by the roots.

Jon

Timotheos Prologizes said...

Victory in the sense of progress rather than regress. And I'm sure than in the big picture, it will end up being a significant moment.

Jon said...

If it distracts from dealing with the forces that push people to choose abortion, it may be significant, but only because it will have been a profound failure.

Jon

Timotheos Prologizes said...

One thing I had not previously noticed was that all five of the Catholic justices (Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Thomas, and Scalia if I'm not mistaken) sided with the majority opinion on this one.