The announcement made by United States Supreme Court of its decision to review a case involving the ban of partial-birth abortion has come as a relief to many pro-life advocates. The decision is significant as it is first time the court has considered a federal restriction on abortion.
The controversial hearing to decide whether the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban is unconstitutional is scheduled for the court’s next term in October. It will be the first abortion case reviewed by Bush Supreme Court Justice appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito, two men thought to be staunch conservatives.
"With the resignation of Justice O’Connor and the confirmation of Justice Sam Alito, I believe that we will have the necessary votes to carry the day," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice. "This is the most significant abortion case the Court has taken in the last decade."
Five justices (including retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor) voted in 2000 to interpret Roe v. Wade as giving a woman the right to a partial-birth abortion, a procedure generally carried out in the second or third trimester, if the doctor saw any "health" benefit to the practice.
Pro-lifers see the decision as a huge mistake that must be changed.
"Unless the Supreme Court now reverses the extreme position that five justices took in 2000, partly born premature infants will continue to die by having their skulls punctured by seven-inch scissors," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.
When President Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Act approved by Congress into law in 2003, he condemned partial-birth abortions as "a terrible form of violence [that] has been directed against children who are inches from birth."
The law defines partial-birth abortions as any abortion in which the baby is delivered "past the [baby’s] navel . . . outside the body of the mother," or "in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother," before being killed "usually [by] the puncturing of the back of the child’s skull and removing the baby’s brains."
However, the law was never enacted because judges in California, New York and Nebraska stuck it down, according to the Associated Press.
The Bush Administration has consistently urged the justices to accept the appeal, according to the AP. On February 14, Solicitor General Paul Clement brought the case to the court’s attention once more, and was finally granted a hearing.
Some conservatives remain skeptical as to whether the hearing will prove to be productive.
In speaking of the justices on the court, blogger Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.com wrote: "I hope they’ll address the rather serious federalism problems Congressional regulation of abortion, but I rather doubt they will.