Media Mistakes Fuel High Court Abortion Ruling
April 19, 2007[The] partial birth abortion ban is a political scam but a public relations goldmine...The major benefit is the debate that surrounds it.—Randall Terry
|Ruth Bader Ginzburg’s Dissent As Linda Greenhouse described it in the New York Times, Justice Ginzburg took the unusual step of reading portions of her dissenting opinion from the bench “at a slow pace that caused every syllable to resonate.” Below are excerpts of that dissent—in which Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, and Stephen G. Breyer joined—arguing that the majority in Gonzales v. Carhart abandoned precedents set in previous rulings (Casey and Stenberg) that upheld the 1973 Roe v. Wade guarantee of women’s abortion rights. Today's decision is alarming. It refuses to take Casey and Stenberg seriously. It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It blurs the line, firmly drawn in Casey, between previability and postviability abortions. And, for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman's health. I dissent from the Court's disposition. Retreating from prior rulings that abortion restrictions cannot be imposed absent an exception safeguarding a woman's health, the Court upholds an Act that surely would not survive under the close scrutiny that previously attended state-decreed limitations on a woman's reproductive choices. . . . In contrast to Congress [in passing the Act banning the procedure], the District Courts made findings [striking down the Act] after full trials at which all parties had the opportunity to present their best evidence. The courts had the benefit of "much more extensive medical and scientific evidence . . . concerning the safety and necessity of intact D&Es." . . . During the District Court trials, "numerous" "extraordinarily accomplished" and "very experienced" medical experts explained that, in certain circumstances and for certain women, intact D&E is safer than alternative procedures and necessary to protect women's health. . . . Ultimately, the Court admits that "moral concerns" are at work, concerns that could yield prohibitions on any abortion. . . . Notably, the concerns expressed are untethered to any ground genuinely serving the Government's interest in preserving life. By allowing such concerns to carry the day and case, overriding fundamental rights, the Court dishonors our precedent. . . . Revealing in this regard, the Court invokes an antiabortion shibboleth for which it concededly has no reliable evidence: Women who have abortions come to regret their choices, and consequently suffer from "[s]evere depression and loss of esteem." . Because of women's fragile emotional state and because of the "bond of love the mother has for her child," the Court worries, doctors may withhold information about the nature of the intact D&E procedure. . . .8 The solution the Court approves, then, is not to require doctors to inform women, accurately and adequately, of the different procedures and their attendant risks. . . . Instead, the Court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice, even at the expense of their safety. This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women's place in the family and under the Constitution—ideas that have long since been discredited. . . . Though today's majority may regard women's feelings on the matter as "self-evident," . . . this Court has repeatedly confirmed that "[t]he destiny of the woman must be shaped ... on her own conception of her spiritual imperatives and her place in society." . . . . . . The Court's hostility to the right Roe and Casey secured is not concealed. . . . If there is anything at all redemptive to be said of today's opinion, it is that the Court is not willing to foreclose entirely a constitutional challenge to the Act. "The Act is open," the Court states, "to a proper as-applied challenge in a discrete case." . . . Though today's opinion does not go so far as to discard Roe or Casey, the Court, differently composed than it was when we last considered a restrictive abortion regulation, is hardly faithful to our earlier invocations of "the rule of law" and the "principles of stare decisis." Congress imposed a ban despite our clear prior holdings that the State cannot proscribe an abortion procedure when its use is necessary to protect a woman's health. . . . Although Congress' findings could not withstand the crucible of trial, the Court defers to the legislative override of our Constitution-based rulings. . . . A decision so at odds with our jurisprudence should not have staying power. 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 of its centrality to women's lives. . . . When "a statute burdens constitutional rights and all that can be said on its behalf is that it is the vehicle that legislators have chosen for expressing their hostility to those rights, the burden is undue."|
1.Does not provide adequate exceptions for a woman’s health, which means that a fundamental legal principle of the primary importance of women's health has been overturned. 2. For the first time upholds a federal law that steps directly into the physician’s exam room and tells him or her what medical technique cannot be used even if the physician’s judgment is that it is the safest to protect a patient’s health and future fertility. 3. Will not reduce the number of abortions but will over time, according to the doctors who know women’s health best, cause an increase in medical complications, and possibly even deaths.The public relations goldmine of those who aim for nothing less than to eliminate reproductive justice at all times from all women has paid off for them today. Language, after all, has consequences too.