This is good news for women’s health, as well as for their rights:
A federal judge Tuesday declared the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional, saying the measure infringes on a woman’s right to choose.
The ruling applies to Planned Parenthood (news – web sites) clinics and their doctors, who perform roughly half the nation’s abortions.
U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton’s ruling came in one of three lawsuits challenging the legislation President Bush (news – web sites) signed last year.
“The act poses an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion,” she wrote.
Federal judges in New York and Nebraska also heard challenges to the law earlier this year but have yet to rule.
I expect the New York and Nebraska cases to end the same way.
Mind you, I am not entirely opposed to a late-term abortion ban, but that’s not what’s at issue here. What’s at issue here is the method in which the abortion is given, not when it’s given:
In the banned procedure known as intact dilation and extraction to doctors, but called partial-birth abortion by opponents the living fetus is partially removed from the womb, and its skull is punctured or crushed.
Justice Department attorneys argued that the procedure is inhumane, causes pain to the fetus and is never medically necessary.
Whether or not it’s medically necessary is for doctors to decide, not the Justice Department.
Anti-abortion advocates use the description of the method, and the term “partial birth,” to graphically depict what’s going on, and try to rally people against it. But it’s just another example of the anti-abortion movement trying to outlaw abortion one method at a time, rather than all in one swoop. The fact of the matter is that in any abortion, a fetus or embryo is destroyed, and usually in ways that aren’t pleasant to think about. But what’s more important is that the health, well-being, and rights of the woman outweigh those of the fetus or embryo; and that’s what this ruling reaffirms.
As I said above, I’m not completely opposed to a late-term abortion ban, but the right conditions would have to be met. There would need to be ample provisions to protect those cases (and yes, they do happen) where it is medically necessary to perform a late-term abortion to protect the health of the woman, or those cases in which the fetus is already dead. But since late-term abortions (21+ weeks) account for fewer than 1% of all abortions in the US, and many of those (I’d guess the vast majority, but I don’t have the numbers to back them up) are doubtless for the reasons I’ve just described, it would be do-nothing, feel-good legislation anyway. In addition, it would be at best difficult and at worst virtually impossible to enforce.