Supreme Court: Politics Over Women’s Health

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Supreme Court: Politics Over Women’s Health

Amie Newman

In choosing politics over women's health, Justice Kennedy affirms Roe and Justices Scalia and Thomas were alone in a more conservative adjoining opinion.

[img_assist|nid=1353|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=89|height=100]In a 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court decided that preserving women's health and lives is secondary to political maneuvering. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as the only woman on the Supreme Court, voted against the decision to ban a particular type of abortion procedure, called an intact D&E, with no exception for a woman's health. She was joined in her dissent by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Breyer. Unsurprisingly, Justices Alito and Roberts voted for the ban tipping the scales that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor originally balanced. And, as a bird and a bottle points out, Justice Kennedy completely failed us.

The cases in front of the Supreme Court, Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v. Carhart, confronted Congress' decision to ban the non-existent, politically monikered "partial birth abortion." Congress had a field day with the ban's extremist ideology stating, "Implicitly approving such a brutal and inhuman procedure by choosing not to prohibit it will further coarsen society to the humanity of not only newborns, but all vulnerable and innocent human life." Apparently, the Iraq war is an anomaly. Either that or Iraqi children do not actually qualify as "innocent human life."


Assumedly, in an effort to remind the female citizens of the United States how important life is and what pregnancy should really feel like for all women, the decision holds forth on a number of extremely personal insights into a woman's life and body: "The government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman" and "Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child." Pedantic pronouncements at best; complete mistrust and disgust of women at worst.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), one of the challengers to the 2003 Partial Birth Abortion Ban, said the Court's decision paves the way for state and federal legislatures to enact additional bans on abortions as early as 12 weeks, including those that doctors say are safe and medically necessary. The CRR also argued that the ban unduly burdens a woman's right to an abortion, a woman's constitutional right, because it does not contain an exception for a woman's health.

Interestingly, some on the far-right seem to view the decision cautiously, according to LifeSite:

Kennedy maintained that the current ruling upheld the Roe v. Wade 1973 abortion decision. He said that since other abortion options are available, "it does not construct a substantial obstacle to the abortion right." A short adjoining opinion written by Justice Thomas and joined by Justice Scalia, said "that the Court's abortion jurisprudence…has no basis in the Constitution." Of note, neither Justice Alito nor Chief Justice Roberts joined that opinion.

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg said,

"Today's decision is alarming. It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper…[and] for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman's health."

Planned Parenthood, who also argued in court against the ban, takes note of the unprecedented interference into physicians' medical decision making:

"This ruling takes away an important option for doctors who seek the best and safest care for their patients." There can be no doubt of that.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,

"an intact D&X, however, may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman, and only the doctor, in consultation with the patient, based upon the woman's particular circumstances can make this decision."

Presidential candidate and North Carolina senator John Edwards publicly denounced the decision:

"I could not disagree more strongly with today's Supreme Court decision. The ban upheld by the Court is an ill-considered and sweeping prohibition that does not even take account for serious threats to the health of individual women. This hard right turn is a stark reminder of why Democrats cannot afford to lose the 2008 election. Too much is at stake—starting with, as the Court made all too clear today, a woman's right to choose."

And Rep. Maloney issued this statement:

"This decision will tie doctors' hands and jeopardize women's health," said Congresswoman Maloney. "Today, the Roberts Court overruled our nation's doctors and fulfilled President Bush's campaign to overturn longstanding legal precedent."

The blogosphere has some fantastic commentary and information on immediate ways to unleash your activism about the decision:

Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns and Money predicted this. Feministing has information on a NARAL Pro-Choice America rally today in NYC against the decision. The Feminist Law Professor notes that the opinion is "striking for the almost absolute lack of focus on women." Something that is crystal clear if you read the opinion all the way through.

The 2008 election cannot come soon enough.

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