Monday, May 07, 2007

When the Health and Safety of a Woman No Longer Matters

On April 18, 2007 the US Supreme Court upheld the first-ever federal law banning abortion. According to Planned Parenthood, “The Supreme Court's decision retreats from more than 30 years of precedent that stated that women's health must be the paramount concern in laws that restrict abortion access.”

The federal law was passed by the US Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2003. Suits to block the implementation of the law were successful, protecting a doctor’s right to perform the outlawed procedure and a woman’s right to choose this procedure while the appeals and lawsuits went through litigation. As the law moved through the appeals process, every court banned this decision as unconstitutional except for the Supreme Court on April 18.

The law outlawed a specific abortion procedure, known as Intact Dilation and Extraction Procedure (D&E), referred to in Congress as “partial birth abortion.” This procedure is the most common abortion method after 21-weeks, and is also commonly used to remove a fetus that died in embryo from the womb.

This law does not outlaw second-term abortions entirely, but a specific procedure that is often the safest option for a woman to choose.

Since there is no medical procedure actually known as a “partial-birth abortion” the broad language of the law could ban some abortions as early as 12 to 15 weeks.

Unlike other abortion bans, this law fails to include an exception that would allow a woman to undergo the procedure in order to protect her health, safety, and/or life. This is very different than the laws that outlaw third-trimester abortions in forty states and the District of Columbia. Each of those laws allow the procedure to be performed when a woman’s health and/or life is at risk.

In her written dissent of the decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes, “Thus, legal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures do not seek to vindicate some generalized notion of privacy; rather, they center on a woman's autonomy to determine her life's course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.”

For Real Life Stories about the decision and how it affects women check out:
My Turn: I Had That Now-Banned Abortion
by: Ilene Jaroslaw
"The Abortion Debate Brought Home"
by: Dan Neil
Los Angeles Times,0,2723837.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail