Cathy Mahoney is the Legal Director for NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Last Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases challenging the Federal Abortion Ban, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003. More than anything else, the decision to schedule this argument, the day after a now monumental election day, serves as a chilling reminder of what's at stake for women's health and Americans' right to privacy now that the Court has been reconfigured by President Bush and his anti-choice colleagues in the Senate.
What the arguments made clear are two points that[img_assist|nid=1353|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=89|height=100] everyone who has a wife, girlfriend, mother, or sister ought to care about: This ban reaches abortions as early as the 12th week in pregnancy: So early, in fact, that even the Bush administration concedes that the Court would need to rewrite the statute to find it constitutional. Further, and equally as notable: It contains no exception to protect a woman's health.
For over 30 years, in decision after decision since Roe v. Wade, the courts have made it clear that restrictions on abortion must contain protections for women's health, yet Congress deliberately chose not to include one when it enacted this law.
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In enacting the ban, Congress also chose to ignore a Supreme Court case decided just six years ago, in which a Nebraska state statute nearly identical to the federal ban was held unconstitutional because it reached abortions as early as the 12th week of pregnancy, and because it included no exception to protect a woman's health. Sound familiar?
Every federal court that has reviewed the federal ban has agreed that it is unconstitutional. Hopefully the Supreme Court, despite its new membership, will see it the same way and respect precedent and declare the ban unconstitutional. However, if the Court sides with the White House and upholds this ban, women and those who care for them have a lot to fear. While last week's election results bring good news in the way of over 20 pro-choice gains and three sound defeats of restrictive choice-related bans (in South Dakota, Oregon, and California) we must not forget that we still need to contend with the hand-picked justices of a Bush Court. Now is not the time to stand down.
The results in these two cases could overturn a core protection of Roe v. Wade and pave the way for anti-choice politicians to further erode the right to privacy.
Click here to read NARAL Pro-Choice America's press release on the Federal Abortion Ban.