A New Direction for the Supreme Court?

Director Joe Scheidler

From the Director’s Desk

Political activists in the pro-life movement have worked on securing a partial-birth abortion ban since the late 1990’s. Although no one ever seriously believed that outlawing this particularly gruesome form of late-term abortion would directly save lives, the publicity concerning the procedure and attempts to outlaw it were invaluable.

“News media were forced to describe the D&X abortion every time they covered legislative debates on the various bills proposed to ban the procedure.”

Nation Faces the Reality of Abortion

News media were forced to describe the D&X abortion every time they covered legislative debates on the various bills proposed to ban the procedure. Pro-lifers named the procedure descriptive of exactly what happens in this particular type of abortion—the baby is partially born, then brutally killed. But every time a news story appeared, reporters and editors were doggedly determined to explain that “opponents call the procedure ‘partial-birth abortion,'” as if it were really something else and we just choose to call it that and we were naturally wrong.

Bill Clinton twice vetoed a ban on partial-birth abortion, but when the bill finally came to the desk of President George W. Bush, he signed it into law on November 5, 2003. As expected, Planned Parenthood and abortionist LeRoy Carhart, one of the leading proponents of partial-birth abortion, filed lawsuits to prevent the enforcement of the ban.

Kennedy Sides with Pro-Life Justices

But on April 18, 2007 the U. S. Supreme Court upheld the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban in a 5-4 decision, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the Opinion for the majority. This signals a major shift in the Court. Justice Kennedy had sided with the pro-abortion Justices when Sandra Day O’Connor was on the Court. But with the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, Kennedy has now joined the conservative justices, giving pro-life a 5-4 majority.

The language Kennedy employed in his Opinion definitely indicates a sensitivity to the plight of the unborn child in a late term abortion. In addition, he writes of the legitimate role of the government in respecting human life. “Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child,” wrote Kennedy. And the Opinion includes several descriptions of exactly what takes place in the partial-birth abortion with frequent references to “killing” the fetus and occasionally, the “child.”

A Cause for New Hope

I think this ruling gives us real hope for future Supreme Court decisions that lean in the direction of the child. The emphasis in every ruling since Roe v. Wade has been protecting a woman’s right to an abortion—any kind of abortion, for any reason. It is time for the baby to get some attention.

And although, as I have said, banning the partial-birth abortion procedure will not in itself save the lives of many children, the public exposure to abortion procedures and the reality that a baby’s life is taken in every abortion may have already prompted some women to choose life for their children. That’s the real value of the PBA ban.

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