Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Settled Law?"

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure Wednesday, handing abortion opponents the long- awaited victory they expected from a more conservative bench. The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.

The opponents of the act "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

The decision pitted the court's conservatives against its liberals, with President Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, siding with the majority.
I get nervous when the government tries to insert itself between me and my doctor. Well, not me in this case--not without a miracle--but the principle remains.

The law that was just upheld includes an exception for the life of the mother, but not for her health. If it contained that exception, I would find it very difficult to oppose, 'cause I do think we should all be able to someday get behind common sense restrictions on third trimester abortions.

But it will be difficult to make common cause with the anti-choice crowd -- the majority of whom would be thrilled to see the articles of their faith imposed on us all -- as long as they view every decision as a step toward (or away from) their ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade. Which, of course, can never be permitted.

I certainly can't blame anyone who sees this decision as proof that the Roberts Court will not be bound by stare decisis on the question of a woman's right to choose. This ruling raises the possibility that our new Chief Justice wasn't being entirely, shall we say, honest at his confirmation hearings when he described Roe v Wade as "settled law."

And that's chilling, to say the least. In 20 years' time, I fear we will look back on Bush's SCOTUS appointments as far more significant to American history than the Iraq War (which will--hopefully--be long over by then).

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