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Sue Cirba - Life Issues - Supreme Court Cases

Major Supreme Court Abortion Cases

1973 Roe v. Wade
1973 Doe v. Bolton
1979 Colautti v. Franklin
1980 Harris V. McRae/Williams v. Zbaras

Partial Birth Abortion Ban Case to Be Reviewed This Fall

By Susan Cirba 3/1/06

On February 21, 2006, the Supreme Court agreed to review Gonzales v. Carhart, the case in which President Bush’s Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

The Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 2003 was the culmination of years of effort by pro-life organizations to place a federal ban on the grisly abortion procedure where an unborn child in the second or third trimester is partially delivered and then killed. The unborn child is pulled from his mother’s womb feet first except for the head. The abortionist then stabs the partially-delivered child in the back of the neck with scissors to make an opening large enough to put a suction tube through. The child’s brain is suctioned out and the abortionist delivers a dead baby.

The public became aware of partial-birth abortion in 1992 when Ohio abortionist, Martin Haskell circulated an instruction paper explaining the procedure. Pro-life organizations have been working since then to ban this violent procedure on the state and national level. The U.S. Congress passed a ban on partial-birth abortion in 1995, 1997 and 1999 and President Clinton vetoed each. Congress failed to override Clinton’s vetoes.

The election of President Bush in 2000 brought hope for protecting unborn children. In the 108th Congress a new bill was prepared to ban partial birth abortion. It was sponsored by Pennsylvania’s Senator Rick Santorum, and passed through Congress. On Nov. 5, 2003, President Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and remarked, " For years, a terrible form of violence has been directed against children who are inches from birth, while the law looked the other way. Today, at last, the American people and our government have confronted the violence and come to the defense of the innocent child."

Within hours of its signing, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU, and Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law in three states. Gonzales v. Carhart is one of those challenges and is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court in the Fall.

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled on Nebraska’s partial- birth abortion ban in Stenberg v. Carhart. It declared Nebraska’s law criminalizing partial-birth abortion unconstitutional because it lacked an exception to protect the woman’s health. The district court in Gonzales v. Carhart declared the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 unconstitutional citing the Supreme Court’s ruling in Stenberg v. Carhart. Sandra Day O’Connor was the tie-breaking vote in that 5-4 decision. O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2005 and was recently replaced by Samuel Alito who is thought to interpret the Constitution as it was originally intended.

Thirty-one states have enacted partial-birth abortion bans, but due to court challenges, none of these bans are in effect.