Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Affirmed

This week Americans were shocked over the methodical murder of 32 Virginia Tech students and faculty at the hands of a suicidal lunatic.  These brutal murders are a tragic reminder that life is a precious and fragile gift.  But another development this week provides a ray of hope: the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the 2003 ban on partial-birth abortions.

In 1995 then-Congressman Charles Canady of Florida began what has now turned out to be a decade-long struggle to prohibit a gruesome and barbaric type of abortion.  My colleagues then, as now, associate this antiseptically termed "procedure" as an emblem of what the late Pope John Paul II called a culture of death.

The procedure calls for the torso, arms, and legs of a live baby to be born and its brains siphoned off to more easily crush the skull for extraction. 

Americans and Members of Congress alike were disgusted to learn these disturbing details in the mid-1990s.  We wondered why anyone with a conscience would allow something this abhorrent to be done in a civilized society.  Even supporters of early-term abortions were troubled.  Opinion polls consistently showed overwhelming support for a ban on the procedure.

Twice the House and Senate sent bipartisan legislation to then-President Bill Clinton to prohibit partial-birth abortions.  Twice he vetoed these attempts.  And when the ban was finally signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003, venue-shopped liberal judges overturned the law on frivolous grounds.

Americans were rightly frustrated that the will of the people was callously ignored, first by a liberal President, and then by activist liberals judges.  There was a sense little could be done to stem the tide against a clear assault on the basic idea of life, even when the offending action was so obviously repugnant.  Liberal activism seemed to be covering the flanks of America’s culture decline. 

This decline is further seen in family breakdown, the rise of the drug culture, violence against and by children, child pornography and sexual abuse, school shootings, and teenage suicide.  And while America enjoys immense material prosperity, there is a feeling our society is courser and more profane, and that there has been a major breakdown of civility over the last generation with children as its target.  It is against this background we learned the sad news from Blacksburg, Virginia.

But this week’s 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court is good news for several reasons.  First, it is a victory for the legislative process.  The bipartisan majority for banning partial birth abortion persisted across five different Congresses.  It survived two presidential vetoes and now has survived challenges from several Federal courts, including a previous Supreme Court ruling.

Second, the ban is now unambiguously the law of the land, as determined by elected representatives, not activist judges.  This contrasts with the Roe v. Wade decision, which has always been a ruling, not the expressed will of the people as demonstrated in Congress.

Third, it is a victory for the sanctity of and respect for life.  Partial-birth abortions are hideous and now they are on the way to being history.  The ban emphatically says you cannot use this repulsive method to end the life of a live baby.

Fourth, this decision is further confirmation Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito, President Bush’s two successful appointments to the high court, are who we hoped and thought they were — Justices committed to a fair and just interpretation of the Constitution.

The broader fight over abortion will doubtless continue for some time to come and it must until the life of every unborn American is protected by law.  The Supreme Court ruling is cause for renewed hope and it comes during a week when Americans needed it most.