As you may know, on April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld upheld this nation's first abortion procedure ban—a ban enacted by George W. Bush and conservatives in Congress. Five justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, ruled that the law does not violate a woman's constitutional right to abortion. The case was Gonzales v. Carhart, and this ban is the so called 'Partial Birth Abortion' Ban Act of 2003. The case reached the high court after other lower courts struck down the act as well. This law is so vaguely written that it may ban the most common abortion procedure used after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Worse, there is no exception when a woman's health is in danger.
Abortion foes claim PBA refers to a particular abortion procedure known as intact dilatation and extraction (a.k.a intact D&X or D&X), which is a rare variant of a more common midterm abortion procedure known as dilatation and evacuation (D&E). This is not true. No medical procedure is specified in the legislation.
This is ridiculous. A law banning a medical procedure must specify the procedure being banned! There are multiple abortion procedures, and the way the 'Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 2003' that was signed by Bush is written, it could refer to many of them.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the PBA ban "is so broadly written that it could prohibit other types of abortion procedures such as D&E, thereby unduly burdening a women's ability to choose abortion itself." Because the bill does not limit the ban to procedures conducted after the fetus is viable, the ban could apply to any abortion performed any time after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Tests for chromosomal defects, organs developing outside the body, a missing brain, etc. cannot be done until after the first trimester.
In the lower courts, the law was found unconsitutional in various cases (Planned Parenthood v. Ashcroft, NAF v. Ashcroft, Carhart v. Ashcroft, Carhart v. Gonzalez) in various parts of the country for some or all of the following reasons.
Because it places an 'undue burden' (i.e., "a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.") on women seeking abortion.
Because its language is unconstitutionally vague.
Because it lacks constitutionally-required provisions to preserve women's health.
The biggest problem, however, is that the government is interfering with women's personal decisions. This blanket legislation supersedes the medical judgement of a doctor, in consultation with the patient, as to what is safest and most appropriate for that patient.
The bill represents the first direct national restriction on any method of abortion since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in 1973. In the two weeks since the Supreme Court upheld this controversial abortion ban that has no health exception, state lawmakers have pushed anti-choice legislation in Michigan, Louisiana, Iowa, North Dakota, Georgia and North Carolina.
So now the question is, what can we do about it.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's regressive ruling on April 18 in the two abortion ban cases, women's rights advocates in Congress have introduced the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) S. 1173/H.R. 1964. This legislation, if enacted, would override the Court's decision in the two cases, Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v. Carhart, in which the court upheld vaguely-written bans that could prohibit the most commonly used and safest abortion procedures after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Read about the Freedom of Choice Act at http://www.now.org/issues/abortion/070430foca.html. You can take action from there.
You can read more about the U.S. Supreme Court Decision at http://www.now.org/press/04-07/04-18.html where you can link to read the the actual Supreme Court decision text.
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