Sunday, November 12, 2006

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Partial Birth Abortion Law

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court justices Wednesday sharply questioned attorneys on both sides of the legal battle over so-called partial birth abortions as the high court weighed whether to uphold Congress's ban on the procedure.

In an intense morning of arguments, lawyers for the Bush administration and supporters of abortion rights gave starkly contrasting views the medical procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion. A law passed by Congress labels it a gruesome and inhumane practice. Supporters argue that such late-term abortions sometimes are the safest for women.

A man in the audience began shouting midway through the proceedings, disrupting the hearing briefly before security guards dragged from the premises.

Before that incident, Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens in questioning whether the court should defer to congressional findings that these late-term abortions are never medically necessary. Proponents disagree, saying there is strong medical evidence to the contrary.

"We have no evidence in the record" as to how often such a situation arises? Roberts asked.

"No, your honor," replied attorney Priscilla Smith, arguing on behalf of the supporters of the abortion method being debated in the case.

At issue is the fate of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003.

The Bush administration urged the court Wednesday to uphold the nationwide ban, marking the high court's most contentious foray into the abortion issue under Roberts' leadership.

Six federal courts on both coasts and in the Midwest have struck down the law as an impermissible restriction on a woman's constitutional right to an abortion that the Supreme Court established in its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973.

A long line of people hoping for a seat inside stretched across the court's plaza hours before the session was to begin. Dozens of people camped through a rainy night in Washington to ensure their place near the head of the line.

A day earlier, abortion was on several state ballots. In South Dakota, voters repealed a state law that virtually outlaws abortions, an issue that itself could end up before the court.

California and Oregon voters rejected measures that would have required that teenagers get their parents' consent before having an abortion.

Partial-birth abortion is not a medical term, but abortion opponents say it accurately describes "a rarely used and gruesome late-term abortion procedure that resembles infanticide," as Solicitor General Paul Clement said in court papers. Clement will argue the case for the administration.

Abortion-rights proponents dispute almost every aspect of the government's case, including the name for the procedure. They say the law has a much broader reach than the government claims and would threaten almost all abortions that take place after the third month of pregnancy.

Doctors most often refer to the procedure as a dilation and extraction or an intact dilation and evacuation abortion. It involves partially extracting a fetus from the uterus, then cutting or crushing its skull.

The procedure appears to take place most often in the middle of the third trimester. There are a few thousand such abortions, according to rough estimates, out of more than 1.25 million abortions in the United States annually. Ninety percent of all abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and are not at issue.

By a 5-4 vote, the court invalidated a similar law in Nebraska in 2000 because it encompassed other abortion methods and did not contain an exception that would allow the procedure to preserve a woman's health, an underpinning of Supreme Court abortion rulings.

Two things have changed in the past six years, the composition of the court and Congress' involvement in the issue by tailoring a law to overcome the objections raised by justices in the Nebraska case.

Abortion opponents are optimistic the court will uphold the law because Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, part of the majority in the 2000 case, has retired and her place was taken by Justice Samuel Alito.

Bush appointed both Roberts and Alito, and most legal analysts believe that neither man will be especially supportive of abortion rights.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing voter following O'Connor's departure, dissented so strongly in the Nebraska case that many court observers believe he is unlikely to switch sides.

The congressional ban attempts to define the type of abortion more precisely and also declares that the procedure is never medically necessary, eliminating the need for a health exception.

Planned Parenthood of America and other abortion-rights supporters are hopeful that the court's respect for its own prior rulings and substantial evidence presented at three trials will overcome the administration's contention that Congress' pronouncements on abortion should carry special weight.

As it does in other high-profile cases, the court will release audio tapes of the proceedings shortly after the arguments conclude.

The cases are Gonzales v. Carhart, 05-380, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, 05-1382.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Winston-Salem Journal, November 3, 2006:

Managua, Nicaragua - Nicaragua's Congress voted yesterday to ban all abortions, including those that could save a mother's life.

If signed into law by President Enrique Bolanos, the bill would eliminate a 100-year-old exception to Nicaragua's abortion ban that permits the procedure if three doctors certify that the woman's health is at risk.

Bolanos had proposed increasing prison sentences for illegal abortions - about six years - to 10 to 30 years for women who have an abortion as well as those who assist them. However, legislators decided not to increase the penalties.

Congressman Hopes High Court Reinstates PartialBirth Abortion Ban

2006-10-24 -- WDC Media News --

(AgapePress) - An Ohio congressman is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to ban what he calls "a gruesome and inhumane" and unnecessary medical procedure that is currently legal in America -- partial-birth abortion.

One day after next month's mid-term elections, the high court in the nation's capital will hear arguments in Gonzalez v. Carhart and Gonzalez v. Planned Parenthood, cases that will decide whether the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is constitutional. That legislation, authored by Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot, outlaws the controversial abortion technique, in which an unborn baby's head is deliberately punctured with a pair of scissors and the child's brains are suctioned out through a catheter.

Although Chabot admits he believes Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion-on-demand in America, should be overturned, he says the partial-birth abortion ban is not -- despite what liberals in Congress claim -- a threat to Roe v. Wade. Rather, his legislation targets a single late-term abortion technique regarded by many pro-life opponents as particularly brutal.

The bill banning that abortion technique overwhelmingly passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Bush, but has nevertheless been overturned by several federal judges. On November 8, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments from opponents of the ban, who claim it is invalid because it lacks a so-called "health exception" for mothers.

Chabot feels the court should defer to Congress's lawmaking ability in the matter. After all, he notes, he and the other members of the legislature "had extensive hearings with medical documentation, and medical testimony," and the Supreme Court generally, "as long as there's sufficient evidence, will defer to the legislative branch on something like this."

The Ohio congressman finds it difficult to fathom why the partial-birth abortion ban is even an issue of contention or controversy for federal judges. "When you consider how horrific a procedure this is, it's hard for me to even comprehend how educated people would think that this is okay," he says, "and hopefully they won't rule that way this time."

Although opponents of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act argue that the ban endangers women's health, Chabot insists to the contrary, that "doctors and experts have said that this procedure is never medically necessary, and the procedure itself is dangerous to women." In fact, the congressman points out, "there are many women who are injured, sometimes very severely, in this particular procedure; there have been documented cases of that."

If the courts truly want to protect a woman's health, Chabot contends, they should stop this particular type of abortion, "which is not only harming women but obviously destroying the life of that child." He is hopeful that the current makeup of the Supreme Court will yield a ban on what he sees as a barbaric procedure that must be outlawed.

Pro-life supporters urged to get active

By: Dean Cousino story updated October 27. 2006 11:58AM

LaSALLE - Although abortions in Michigan are at an all-time low, citizens cannot sit idle and can do more to build a culture of life.

"Life is that foundation for every other right," guest speaker Pamela Sherstad said Thursday night. "Our souls must ask, ‘What have we done today to build a climate of life in our communities?' "

There are many ways to promote life from the very moment of conception to natural death, Mrs. Sherstad said. Both she and Diane Hanson from Michigan Right to Life spoke at the Monroe County RTL's annual Focus on Life dinner at LaRoy's Hall. Both focused on taking more active roles in stopping abortions in Michigan and preparing for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade that made abortion on demand legal in 1973.

Michigan ranks No. 1 in defending life, according to one Chicago-area pro-life agency. RTL successfully has passed three petition drives, the latest in 2004 to override Gov. Jennifer Granholm's veto of the Legal Birth Definition Act that banned partial birth abortions.

The number of abortions peaked at more than 49,000 in 1987 but has declined 49 percent since then to just over 25,000 in 2005. The number of abortions by minors in 2005 (1,000) also decreased by 60 percent since then. The declines are due primarily to new technology, educating women facing unwanted pregnancies and RTL-backed legislation and referendums passed by voters.

"A picture can tell more than a thousand words," Ms. Hanson said about new ultrasound equipment that shows a baby inside the womb. "It can save a human life."

She told the story of how a woman walked out of a Michigan abortion clinic after seeing a picture of her baby on a screen.

"She saw that the baby was a real human life and not just a blob of cells," Ms. Hanson said. "Right to Life worked hard to get that new law to allow that viewing option."

RTL led a voter-approved referendum in 1988 that ended tax-funded abortions and spearheaded an informed consent law approved by lawmakers that requires abortion clinics to provide information about the procedure, the doctors and options. It also helped pass a parental consent law that requires parents to be notified if a person is younger than 18.

Opting to have an abortion can be a "life-changing decision" that can lead to a "broken-hearted, emotionally injured and spiritually injured" spirit, she said.

Pro-life supporters need to be ready to defend a reversal of Roe vs. Wade, Ms. Hanson told about 115 people present.

"We haven't got a moment to lose," she noted. "Legalized abortion will come to an end. We must be ready when God answers our prayers."

Michigan is one of eight states that already has a law on the books banning abortion. As soon as the nation's highest court overturns Roe vs. Wade, abortion would become illegal again. That likely would draw legal challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and other abortion supporters, Ms. Hanson said.

College-age students are most at risk and likely to face an unwanted pregnancy. And when they do, they often get bad advice or little support from close friends and family who don't know how to respond.

"We need to practice and prepare now to be willing to help them" choose life, said Mrs. Sherstad, 39. "Parents should be asking themselves, ‘How are you going to help them get through this?' "

There were 186 abortions in Monroe County in 2005. More than 100 of the women were age 24 or younger, she said.

She outlined different reasons why women get abortions. She also listed ways to get involved in the pro-life movement:

  • Volunteer at pregnancy centers.
  • Write letters to the editor.
  • Talk to neighbors about issues.
  • Be willing to listen to people with different points of view.
  • Yet another option is prayer.

"Pray for women who have had abortions, for abortion doctors and women facing an unplanned pregnancy and people who come into contact with them," she said.

Citizens also need to become informed about issues and support pro-life candidates who are "willing to stand up for the defenseless," she said. She added that pro-life lawmakers "do make a difference" in curbing abortions.

"The number of abortions will increase if we don't vote pro-life," the married mother of two twin boys said. "I'm proud to be a single-issue voter. The right to life is the foundation for all other rights."

Other speakers included Paula Springer, director of the Eastern Michigan Offices for Adoption Associates Inc., and Monroe Mayor C.D. (Al) Cappuccilli, who served as master of ceremonies and told how "blessed" he was to have a handicapped son.

Further information about RTL of Michigan is available at Information about Monroe County RTL is available by calling Denise Poet, president, at 241-8180 or Dolores at 243-5616 or e-mailing