For the first time in 30 years, this law allows Congress to impose its authority in places where it simply does not belong. The statutes power extends over the realm of a womens ethical and religious values, her family life and her medical decisions. These are areas in which black and white answers do not exist and where disagreement is inevitable. Decisions regarding such disagreement should be reserved for a mother, her family and her doctor to make, not politicians.
True, partial-birth abortions are extremely unsettling. A fetus is partially delivered, killed, and then removed from the mother. No one can deny the disquieting nature of the procedure, nor are pro-choice advocates attempting to do so. However disconcerting they may be, partial- birth abortions are often medically necessary, either to preserve the life and health of the mother, or to avoid further complications of the babys health.
A valid medical procedure such as this should not be criminalized. When a women is told that her child will be born with extreme birth defects and will not live past infancy, she deserves the right to decide whether to abort the pregnancy or allow her child to endure an agonizing few weeks of life. It may be more painful to give birth to a sick baby and watch it die than to abort it. , but only a mother can make that decision.
Furthermore, there are cases in which not performing a partial-birth abortion leaves a mothers life at stake. The recently-enacted law ignores this fact altogether, leaving no exceptions to the ban when the health of the mother is in jeopardy. Not only does the lack of a health exception pose significant risk to the mother, but it posits a value judgment regarding the lives of women, implying that saving the life of an unborn fetus should take priority over saving the life of a mother.
This issue of health exceptions in abortion bans is far from uncharted territory: the Supreme Court itself has already tackled the problem, laying a framework by which the current ban will likely be declared unconstitutional. Three years ago, in the case of Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska ban for not including an exception to ensure the mothers health. The ruling stated that any statute banning dilation and extraction procedures without exceptions poses a significant risk to the mother, and is therefore unconstitutional. Based on these grounds, the new law is destined to be short-lived, as abortion rights groups have already vowed to challenge the laws constitutionality.
Despite the gruesome portrait of partial-birth abortion that proponents of the ban underscore, the effects of the procedure are not as far-reaching as is often thought. While estimates of the exact number of partial-birth abortions performed each year are unreliable, even those of pro-life groups admit partial-birth abortions make up well below one percent of abortions performed each year.
Denying women the right to this procedure, despite the rarity of its use, is to devalue them and their right to make moral decisions. If womens rights are truly valued in this country, this ban should not be allowed. In the case of a law suit, which appears extremely likely, the Supreme Court must uphold its decision from Stenberg v. Carhart. If not, the enforcement of this law would be a terrible step backwards for womens rights and individual liberty.