Partial Birth Abortion
The Supreme Court today agreed to hear Gonzales v. Carhart, a case on the constitutionality of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by the 108th Congress in 2003. Three lower courts have ruled that the ban is unconstitutional because it does not include an exception for the health of the mother, even though nine years of congressional investigations have revealed that partial birth abortion is never necessary for the health of the mother.
It's possible (perhaps even likely) that the Supreme Court will overrule the lower courts and uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. The last Supreme Court decision on partial birth abortion struck down a Nebraska state ban in Stenberg v. Carhart -- Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the deciding vote in that 5-4 decision, and it's likely that her successor, Justice Samuel Alito, will swing the court in favor of the dissent which held that Nebraska's ban on partial birth abortion was constitutional. Of course, this is also dependent upon Chief Justice Roberts sticking with the dissenting opinion of the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Planned Parenthood has responded to the Supreme Court's decision to hear Gonzales v. Carhart, referring to the decision as "a dangerous act of hostility aimed squarely at women's health and safety." Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, added references to "judges far outside the mainstream" and "anti-choice politicians" for safe measure -- even though most Americans oppose partial birth abortion. Unfortunately, Ms. Richards did not address the argument involved in Gonzales v. Carhart, that Congress has already determined that partial birth abortion is never necessary for the health of the mother and that a provision for the health of the mother would therefore be superfluous. Maybe far-left rhetoric will win the battle for partial birth abortion in the court of public opinion and maybe it won't, but I doubt that it will carry much weight with any serious jurist concerned about upholding the law rather than appeasing Planned Parenthood.
The fact of the matter is this: Almost a decade of congressional investigation has determined that partial birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of the mother, meaning that partial birth abortion is an unnecessary and barbaric abortion procedure which actually takes the lives of viable babies who could be brought to term and live. We cannot allow such a grievous and indefensible violation of the most important and fundamental human right, the right to life, to be protected by our nation's highest law and those responsible for interpreting it. A federal ban on partial birth abortion is long overdue, and it is time for the Supreme Court to uphold it and stop abusing the Constitution to protect the most serious abuse of human rights that our nation is currently engaging in. History will look back on Gonzales v. Carhart and see either a ruling which upholds the dignity of the human person like Brown v. Board of Education, or a ruling which denies the dignity of the human person like Dred Scott v. Sandford. It will be up to the justices what kind of history they're going to make.
In the meantime, while it is true that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act would put an end to a brutal abortion procedure, it is also important to point out that it would not prevent a single late term abortion. There are three other late term abortion procedures, all of which are more painful for the child and all of which are more painful and dangerous for the mother. If the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, Congress cannot be satisfied -- it's time for a ban on all late term abortion procedures, all of which are flagrant violations of human rights and none of which are necessary to preserve the health of women. In the meantime, pro-life Catholics must work for both social justice and charitable endeavors which would reduce and eventually eliminate the factors which lead women to seek abortion so that we can truly create a culture of life in which all human life is welcomed and respected.