18 April 2007


The Supreme Court has by a vote of 5-4 upheld a federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The Supreme Court had orginally struck down Nebraska's partial birth abortion ban in 2000. After President Bush signed a federal ban into law, federal courts in California and New York issued restraining orders to keep the law from being applied. Justice Kennedy dissented strongly in the original Court opinion striking down the ban; today, he delivers the majority opinion upholding the ban.

The opinion itself is over 70 pages long. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a fiery dissent. From her closing paragraph:
In sum, the notion that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act furthers any legitimate governmental interest is, quite simply, irrational. The Court's defense of the statute provides no saving explanation. In candor, the Act, and the Court's defense of it, cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court--and with increasing comprehension at its centrality in women's lives.
(citations omitted).

J. Ginsburg is an intelligent woman, so for her to express bewilderment like this is a bit much, especially when the Supreme Court has declared time and time again that the government has a legimate interest in protecting unborn human lives (there is nothing controversial in the fact). In fact, Roe's three-trimester framework gave the government increasing authority to regulate abortion as the fetus becomes more viable. The "undue burden" standard in Planned Parenthood v. Casey became the measuring stick to determine the constitutionality of any federal regulation on abortion--and today the Court has held that the federal ban on partial-birth abortion does not impose an undue burden on women.

In layman's terms, this is a victory for the unborn. The federal law simply punishes anyone who "knowingly performs...a partial-birth abortion." That's it. And here's the clincher: there is no health exception. The procedure is banned, period. Full stop. Late-term abortionists like George Tiller can no longer pretend the procedure is "medically necessary" to justify its performance.

It is unrealistic to think Roe v. Wade will be overturned anytime soon; incremental change in the right direction is what is hoped for--and it's what we've won today.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.