Thursday, April 19, 2007


In Gonzales v. Carhart, (click here for full-text of the opinion) the Supreme Court yesterday upheld a nationwide ban on certain types of abortions.

This kind of throws a wrench into the semester of jurisprudence my Con Law prof. has been laboring to construct since Christmas.

The law at issue passed both the Senate and the House in 2003 by a fairly large margin. It bans a specific (and fairly gruesome) abortion procedure. Today's decision is not a surprise, especially given the fact that the court's makeup has shifted a bit to the right since the last time an abortion ban was considered. The controversial aspect of the decision, though, is that it contains no exception to preserve the health of a mother. I does contain a life exception, but no health exception.

Is this decision significant? Not really. As a symbol, perhaps, but not in any real practical way. The radical right will trumpet it from the rooftops as a victory over godless secularism. The radical left will call it the downfall of civilization as we know it. In reality, over 90% of all abortions performed don't even come close to using this procedure. In those cases that do use it, other abortion procedures are readily available that are not outlawed. But regardless, get ready for the demagoguery from both ends of the spectrum. It's only going to get louder.


The Shark said...

In response to a couple things that have nothing to do with this post:

1) So... Now I am starting to think of using my blog for purposes other than website updates...

2) If your tongue were a magnet, the main thing I would be worried about would be locking lips with any girl wearing braces, or licking your hard drive.

3) "Abortion for some, miniature American flags for others!"

Bienvenido a la comunidad del blog.

JKC said...

Well, well, the shark has deigned to visit my humble blahg. Thanks for stopping by.

1. That's cool

2. That could be awkward; involuntary tongue action. "Really, I didn't do it on purpose, I swear." Nobody would buy that. But the only girl I kiss is braceless, so that's not really an issue. On the other hand, I do like to lick my hard drive...

3. Those two alien guys are so wise.

Warren said...

Shark, I stopped visiting your web site mostly because there wasnt much going on in the forum or the blog. I would recommend that you begin blogging on a regular basis so I can get a bigger dose of Shark in my life.

And Jared, you are 188 according to blogger. I used to be about that old too until I fixed it. I think the other Jared was equally as geriatric; I don't know what blogger's deal is with people's ages. And you forgot William Shatner on your favorite music.

Cabeza said...

Wouldn't the possibility of health effects have passed once the infant gets to its navel? I understand what you're saying, I just don't think it applies in this case. If you've come full-term, just give the baby up for adoption.

As always, I allow for my personal ignorance. If I'm missing something, I am always willing to accept further information.

JKC said...

That's a really good point and probably why the decision came down the way it did. I agree that in most cases, a health exception would be unnecessary.

Personally, I'm pretty ambivalent about the health exception. For one, a court could construe "life" as "quality of life" and allow a doctor to consider long-term health effects under the life exception. It's a stretch, but courts have stretched further.

It's important to understand, though, that partial birth abortion does not mean full-term pregnancy. The dilation and extraction (D&X) procedure that was banned has been termed partial birth by anti-abortion groups (a pretty smart PR) move, in order to make seem closer to infanticide.

In D&X, the doctor artificially dilates the cervix to bring the fetus out and then performs the abortion. This does not mean that the child is going to be viable. (Though this is often the case). The term partial birth may give the impression that the child has been carried full term and is aborted during labor. That's not accurate.

The argument in favor of the health exception is that if it isn't necessary, it won't be invoked and it won't cause any harm. The argument against is that it could be abuse. Like I said, I'm personally pretty ambivalent, especially since this decision will probably impact less than one in ten abortions anyway.

The fact that hundreds of representatives from both parties voted for the bill is a pretty strong argument in favor of the law and the decision upholding it. This law wasn't pushed through by republicans alone.