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Abortion decision energizes opponents

By
April 19, 2007

The Supreme Court’s endorsement of the first federal curbs on an abortion procedure in a generation suggests that even with Democrats in control of Congress, efforts to preserve abortion rights may be losing ground.

Both sides in the volatile abortion debate said they now expect a spate of efforts in several states to place further limits on abortion — and that a court reshaped by President Bush’s conservative picks will be more willing to uphold them.

Meanwhile, abortion rights champions expressed little hope that efforts to enshrine in federal law that a woman has a right to choose could succeed in Congress.

Wednesday’s ruling — a turning point in a debate that has engaged the nation for more than three decades — confirmed the worst fears of abortion rights supporters and the highest hopes of abortion opponents: that Bush’s push to leave his stamp on the court could open the way for a host of new abortion restrictions.

The outlawed procedure, generally used to end pregnancies in the second and third trimester, involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman’s uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion. Opponents of the procedure call it partial-birth abortion.

By validating a ban on such abortions, “the court has taken the first major step back” toward the days when abortion was illegal, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

“What it says to me is that this court is willing to disregard prior precedent, and they are waiting for an opportunity to overturn Roe,” Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said in an interview, referring to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that said women have a right to choose abortions.

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.

Gandy called Wednesday’s decision the court’s most political since Bush v. Gore, the 2000 ruling that handed Bush the presidency.

Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion group, said the ruling “provides further encouragement” to state and federal lawmakers to enact better “informed consent” laws, such as those requiring that women be offered an opportunity to see ultrasounds or hear about a fetus’ ability to feel pain before they have an abortion.

Such legislation is pending in several state legislatures and has been introduced Congress.

“We have a court now that has correctly yielded to the Congress and the legislative branch,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “This will bolster state legislators who are reflecting the views of their constituents on abortion.”

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, a leading sponsor of the ban, said the court’s ruling could return abortion-rights questions to the states, where he said they belong.

“It forced many people to consider what actually occurs when an abortion is carried out,” Chabot said. “It’s not a reach for one to think that the child is just as much a human being earlier in the process, and that those other forms of abortion are pretty awful too.”

Abortion rights champions expressed alarm at that prospect.

“The court has given anti-choice state lawmakers the green light to open the flood gates and launch additional attacks on safe, legal abortion, without any regard for women’s health,” said Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said they would reintroduce a measure to put a woman’s right to have an abortion in federal law. Feinstein, however, acknowledged that abortion rights supporters do not have the votes to prevail in Congress.

“We’ve been losing fight after fight after fight,” she said, adding that people have become complacent about protecting abortion rights because they have existed for more than a generation.

The upholding of the ban was the culmination of a dozen years of efforts by abortion opponents to outlaw a procedure that public opinion polls have shown most Americans believe should be illegal.

The public is nearly evenly split on abortion in general, polls show, but the vast majority of Americans back some restrictions on it. Surveys have found that more than 60 percent favor banning the procedure outlawed in Wednesday’s ruling. That makes the ban an exceedingly difficult political proposition even for Democrats who are strong champions of abortion rights.

“It’s a Democratic Congress, but it’s not a pro-choice Congress,” NOW’s Gandy said, adding that it was unlikely that lawmakers would step in to try to reverse the ban or take other action to beat back additional abortion curbs.

Instead, liberal activists said the decision demonstrated the importance of putting Democrats in the White House and in Congress, where they would be positioned to name and confirm Supreme Court justices who support abortion rights.

“The reaction to this decision could help educate many Americans who, quite frankly, have grown complacent about a constitutional right to reproductive health,” said Ralph Neas of People for the American Way.

The cases are Gonzales v. Carhart, 05-380, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, 05-1382.

–JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

12 Responses to Abortion decision energizes opponents

  1. Sandy Price

    April 19, 2007 at 7:35 am

    I cannot imagine any woman carrying a fetus for 8 or 9 months and then wanting it washed out of her body. As a mother of 2 daughters and one step-son the thought is repugnant to me. But, I am not all women!

    If my life were in jeopardy and my children were in my care I might have to make this decision. However yesterday the decision was removed from me and my Doctor and the Social Conservatives are celebrating that Christian legislation was finally passed in America.

    I was a Christian for years and learned a different view of Jesus Christ. Would he demand American laws be written in his name? Not the Jesus I learned about. He wanted a separation from the government of all nations and for the people to represent him. He wasn’t particularly pleased with the temples and citadels built to hold his icons.

    The Social Conservatives behind President Bush have declared a war with the American people and the onslaught of Christian Legislation has just begun. They want all education and legislation to be taught under the terrorism of hell and damnation and these Christians are losing their memberships because their laws are often unjust.

    Their own children are leaving the churches in droves and they only way to “win one for Jesus” is to use the Supreme Court. I’m sorry their homes are splitting up and their need to legislate their prohibitions have only 20 months left under President Bush. I refuse to let these sad people make my nation into a police state.

    If another Social Conservative is elected President this will simply be the opening act for a complete rebuild of our Constitution. The war was declared yesterday when the Supreme Court took a stand against American choices.

  2. jarrodlombardo

    April 19, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    This just a part of a war between good and evil. Of course, both sides think they are good. Unlike the Dominionists (http://www.religioustolerance.org/reconstr.htm), we don’t advocate intolerance and genocide. I haven’t yet heard a good plan for fighting them that doesn’t play into their desires for full-on civil war. :(

    –Jarrod

  3. Jeffers

    April 19, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Sandy,

    While I will spot you the possibility that life may not “begin” upon conception, should we really allow abortion right up to the moment of birth?

    Wouldn’t it be prudent to assume that somewhere along the time of pregnancy a fetus is blessed with a sole? Wouldn’t we want to offer some protection to that being, as we would a moment after birth?

    I do not wish to impose my religious values on others, but we all seem to share a common value against the murder of an innocent being. So when does this occur?

  4. Cailleach

    April 19, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Alas, there are some situations that call for late-term abortion to save a woman’s life. Severe eclampsia is one. It results from extreme high blood pressure, and will become more necessary as our obesity rate rises. In eclampsia, the only way to save the pregnant woman’s life is an emergency abortion. There is no time to go to a judge first. In most cases the fetus is dead already. The death of the woman may leave her other children, if she has them, motherless as well. If she is a single mother, who will raise her children? How can the Supreme Court and the “right to life” movement justify mandating the death of a woman over the life of a fetus who may die when she does or may be dead anyway?

  5. Cailleach

    April 19, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    In deciding on the admissability of a doctor-recommended procedure, aren’t the Supremes practicing medicine without a license?

  6. SEAL

    April 20, 2007 at 1:40 am

    SEAL:
    We have all heard the arguments from both sides way too many times. But there is only one issue – individual rights. This time it happened to be about abortion. The funamentalist christians in America have worked and planned for more than 40 years to garner enough power in government to FORCE everyone in the nation to obey them. They have systematically stacked every level of government from the lowest cities and counties all the way up to the president to finally have the POWER to force their will upon us all.

    This is a classic example of how a small group of extremists with a passion, the will to organize, and the patience to stay with a plan can obtain their goal. Abortion is only an issue. The goal is POWER. The power to dictate how people will conduct their lives. You don’t have to believe as we do but you have to behave as we believe.

    Those who have actually looked at the history of this world see that this has been what christianity has done ever since it started. They used whatever means necessary to conquer and force their religion upon the conquered. When they could not conquer they worked underneath to instill their beliefs until they built enough of a following to have their way. Throughout history they demonstrate brutality and genocide.

    Christianity is the real terrorism – all over the world. The christian religion is based upon terrorism. Do as you’re told or go to hell.

  7. Jeffers

    April 20, 2007 at 9:54 am

    So, if a mother and a small child are trapped in an accident, and removing the mother is only possible if the child is killed, then we can go ahead and kill the child?

    After all, her individual rights are at risk?

    What about the rights of the child?

    Perhaps its ok if the child is special needs.

    Can’t you guys see a problem here? I’ll spot you the first three months of pregnancy, then I’ll give you a three month gray period. Can we then have the last three months to give the child some individual right to survive?

    Jeffers

  8. Sandy Price

    April 20, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Who are you appointing to be the “we” in who allows the final decision on all abortions? You seem to believe that the Federal Government has the authority to be the “we.”

    I do not. Every citizen in America has the right to decide what to do with his/her body. The female body is the carrier of life and it is her decision to take that final step if her life is in danger or not. I lost a dear friend who had a problem with high blood pressure just before she was due. Her father (a doctor) wanted to fly her to France for an abortion as she had 3 other children. He was too late and the stroke caused by the pregnancy killed her.

    I really do not believe that anyone or any government has the authority to force this on anyone else. If you want to live in a socialized nation where the government sets your laws for you, move to one.

    I was in my breeding years prior to Roe v Wade and I lived in constant fear I would get pregnant again. It ruined my marriage as birth contol was not that accurate. Today the ladies have it easier but their bodies often let them down. You seem to want the government to step in. I’m assuming you are a man and have no concept of the fear women live with. Many decide to be sterilized instead of living on the edge of fear. Will your next desire be to ban sterilization?

    One ban leads to another until we find ourselves contacting our congressmen for permission on our decisions.

    The unborn has no legal authorty in America. The unborn cannot be counted in a census, cannot inherit wealth until born and do I read you want this changed to suit some moral problem you have? If you are married, I suggest you discuss this with anyone you might want to marry.

  9. Jeffers

    April 20, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Oh, I assure you I have discussed this with my wife. She would probably tell you that babies are viable long before they leave the womb. She makes me look moderate on this issue.

    You seem so militant on this issue, yet you believe I have injecting my “morals”.

    Society seems to have accepted a morality that protects each from being murdered, not me. As to rights for the unborn, several states seem willing to charge attackers with double homicides for killing pregnant women. So that seems to make the difference dependent on whether the mother wanted the unborn child. Seems like an “abortion” of logic.

    Sorry, as I have a great respect for many of your stands, but on this one you offer no compromise.

  10. Sandy Price

    April 20, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    You seem to want the government to do it. You’re right there is no compromise with freedom. You can either recognize freedom or look to the corrupt government to set your laws. We cannot have a couple of freedoms in America. We have freedoms or we don’t. I can cannot think of single reason to ask the Congress to prohibit any social law.

  11. Jeffers

    April 20, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Please, get off the high horse, pretending that this is merely a “freedom vs government” issue. Even the Libertarian Party has struggled with this issue.

    I prefer to have less government on most every issue.

    Who is to protect life though?

  12. Helen Rainier

    April 21, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Jeffers,

    To be perfectly honest, this government has NO respect for “life.” As I see it, this issue boils down to whether or not a woman and her doctor have the freedom to make a medical decision. I believe one’s views largely depends on whether you see it as a personal or a religious issue. The point is that keeping the right to choice does NOT mean every woman MUST have an abortion. However, abortion has been around for centuries — just like politicians and prostitutes and organized religion.

    As far as “who is to protect life though” — well, that is an individual decision. I think it is hypocritical for government to decide this issue for the populace en masse — particularly since we have an administration that is killing hundreds on a daily basis in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Do NOT even speak of “who will protect life” when our government insists that killing innocent life is AOK because they sanction it.

    That is being intellectually dishonest.

    If you and your wife don’t agree that abortion is not a legitimate option for you, more power to you. However, that gives you absolutely no MORAL RIGHT to enforce your values or morals on ANYONE else.