Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Partial Birth Abortion ban

Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down a decision upholding a ban on partial birth abortions. Read the NYTimes article here. Read the Fox News treatment here. Read the AlterNet reaction here. The decision was written by Kennedy, joined by (surprise!) Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito.

Exam pressures prevent me from giving a full treatment to the issue, and I have only skimmed the opinion, but I offer these thoughts.

I am pro-life. I like to think I am reasonable in cases of rape or life of the mother, but by and large I don't like abortion. I've explained some practical reasons why abortion is wasteful (I find arguments based on religion or about when life begins don't persuade the pro-choice crowd no matter how compelling I may find them). Moreover, I find partial birth abortions as described in Kennedy's opinion to be particularly repugnant. So I am quite content with the outcome of this case.

People are worried about a woman's right to choose, but I'm not sure why considering that Kennedy wrote:
"We presume the following principles for the purposes of this opinion. Before viability a State may not prohibit any woman from making the decision to terminate her pregnancy. . . . On the other hand, regulations which do no more than create a structural mechanism by which the State, or the parent or guardian of a minor may express profound respect for the life of the unborn are permitted, if they are not a substantial obstacle to the woman's right to choose." (Emphasis added)

Looks like the right to choose is pretty safe to me. Even assuming for argument that right to an abortion is indeed a right (something I am not really willing to concede), we have a ruling about a procedure that may be used to exercise a right, not a ruling on the ultimate right itself. You still get your abortions, just not partial birth ones. It's as if the ranters are all up in arms about not being allowed to suck the brains out of 14 week old fetuses (pictured above). Usually I can understand the opposition's point of view, but this just escapes me.

Added: Paul at Right Side of the Rainbow points out that the opinion bans the vaginal delivery of a living fetus and then crushing it's skull. It is still allowable to deliver a living fetus by c-section and crush its skull, or to fill the fetus with poison, kill it, and deliver it vaginally. So in the end, it really doesn't seem to have much practical effect whatsoever.

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