In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court today upheld a nationwide ban on “partial birth” abortion. The nation’s leading group of professionals providing health care for women, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, opposes this law because the banned procedure is often the best option for women.
Yet the majority — Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito — dismiss the medical community’s opinion and instead adopt political rhetoric intended to appeal to the right-wing base. Some examples:
Abortion methods vary depending to some extent on the preferences of the physician and, of course, on the term of the pregnancy and the resulting stage of the unborn child’s development. (p. 3)
The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice, nor should it elevate their status above other physicians in the medical community. (p. 33)
When standard medical options are available, mere convenience does not suffice to displace them. (p. 37)
As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explains in her dissent, the majority opinion’s language seems to be based on a deep hostility to women’s rights, rather than on sound scientific evidence or jurisprudence:
The Court’s hostility to the right Roe and Casey secured is not concealed. Throughout, the opinion refers to obstetrician- gynecologists and surgeons who perform abortions not by the titles of their medical specialties, but by the pejorative label “abortion doctor.” A fetus is described as an “”unborn child,”” and as a “”baby,” second-trimester, dissenting previability abortions are referred to as ““late-term,” and the reasoned medical judgments of highly trained doctors are dismissed as “”preferences”” motivated by ““mere convenience.”
The majority “also rejected claims that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act is so vaguely worded it would force doctors to forgo a commonly used, constitutionally protected abortion technique for fear of prosecution.”