Twilight Time for Partial-Birth Abortion?

Article excerpt


During the last two Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Sen. Arlen Specter asked the nominees about the "super-duper" precedence of Roe v. Wade. The term earned some justified guffaws, but pro-lifers took the senator's point, which is that Roe has a pretty formidable defense in both the court of law and public opinion. The best tactics for abortion opponents is to limit the expanse of the ruling, not challenge it directly, at least for now.

The Republican-controlled Congress followed this strategy when it overwhelmingly passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Except among abortion-rights extremists, the practice in which a unborn baby's skull is crushed and brain removed has almost no public support. But all legislative efforts to end this gruesome form of infanticide have foundered in the courts, which typically rule that any ban must include exceptions for the "health" of the mother. That's what the Supreme Court ruled in 2000 when it struck down a Nebraska ban by a 5-4 vote.

Unfortunately, the 2003 law, which makes an exception for the life of a mother, but not her "health," has met a similar fate in three lower courts. It is surprising then that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, Gonzales v. Carhart, since the lower courts were unanimous on the unconstitutionality of the ban. It also may be a sign that the court is preparing to overturn its 2000 ruling. …