Published April 19, 2007
All Americans should welcome the Supreme Court ruling upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.
Let’s begin with the facts. Partial-birth abortion is a method of late-term abortion in which the abortionist dilates the mother’s cervix, extracts the baby’s body by the feet until all but the head has emerged, stabs scissors into the head, sucks out the baby’s brains, collapses the baby’s skull, and delivers the dead baby. This atrocity is inflicted up to 5,000 times a year in this country — generally on healthy babies of healthy mothers.
Americans on both sides of the abortion divide recognize that partial-birth abortion is barbaric. That’s why bipartisan majorities in Congress, including Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, voted for the partial-birth law.
The five justices in the majority who upheld the law exercised judicial restraint and properly deferred to the democratic process. The four liberal judicial activists in dissent — led by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who maintains that the Constitution even requires taxpayer-funded abortion — sought to impose their own extremist agenda.
In its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court imposed on the American people a radical regime of unrestricted abortion. Wednesday’s ruling offers some hope of moderating that regime.
In particular, the court made clear that laws regulating abortion should generally be attacked only in their application to particular circumstances.
Americans now have the green light to enact state partial-birth bans modeled on the federal ban. Legislatures should also pursue more robust informed-consent rules on, for example, ultrasound imaging and fetal pain.
More broadly, the ruling shows that the court’s decades-long power grab on abortion has failed to generate a coherent consensus among the justices. With further improvements in the court’s makeup, abortion policy can be restored to where it belongs: to citizens acting through their legislators.
— Edward Whelan is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.