Appeals Court Will Hear Pro-Life Case to Overturn Roe Abortion Decision
by Steven Ertelt
February 9, 2004
New Orleans, LA (LifeNews.com) — The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has announced that it will hear oral arguments in Norma McCorvey’s attempt to overturn the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that overturned pro-life laws across the country banning abortion.
McCorvey’s case is on appeal after a federal judge dismissed it only days after the case was filed. Attorneys for McCorvey, the former Roe, filed a motion appealing the judge’s determination that case could not be reopened because too much time had elapsed since the original decision.
"We are excited about this historic opportunity to reverse Roe v. Wade," lead attorney Allan Parker told LifeNews.com.
"The Dallas federal judge denied Norma McCorvey’s motion after only two days without adequately considering the 5,347 pages of affidavits from over one thousand women harmed by abortion and scientific experts," Parker explained.
The appeals court hears oral arguments in less than ten percent of the cases filed, and Parker said their decision is "quite a breakthrough." Parker is the founder of the Justice Foundation, a pro-life law firm that is assisting McCorvey in the case.
"I deeply regret the damage my original case caused women," McCorvey said. "I want the Supreme Court to examine the evidence and have a spirit of justice for women and children."
McCorvey’s attorneys will be the only ones to present oral arguments as the state of Texas and the Dallas district attorney’s office chose not to file briefs in response to the appeal.
Her lawsuit relies on a Rule 60 motion that original parties to a lawsuit can use to overturn a prior decision, so long as their is new information pertinent to the case.
McCorvey’s attorneys submitted thousands of signed affidavits from women who have been hurt abortion as evidence and reason for the court to reconsider the Roe decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court has reversed its own precedents using Rule 60(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 60), most recently in the 1997 decision of Agostini v. Felton. There, the court overturned a 12 year-old precedent. Parker says the high court has overturned precedents as long as 41 years-old, longer than the length of time since Roe.
The appeals court could decide to overturn Roe, dismiss the appeal, or send the case back to the district court for a complete trial. The federal court will also consider whether a single judge should have decided the case of if a three-judge panel should have presided.
Parker said the case will likely proceed to the Supreme Court. However, once there, pro-life advocates worry the Supreme Court’s pro-abortion majority will decline to hear it or rule against McCorvey. Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt said her group doesn’t view the case as a threat to the Roe decision for the same reason.
A decision by the federal appeals court in the McCorvey case is expected in early March.
The Justice Foundation has filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of Sandra Cano, the Doe in the Doe v. Bolton companion case to Roe.
As the companion case to Roe v. Wade, the Doe decision saw the high court define "health" to include "all factors — physical emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age" that may prompt someone who have an abortion. Pro-life groups have since opposed health exceptions in any pro-life legislation because it would essentially all for all abortions to remain legal.
The Roe case is McCorvey v. Hill, No. 03-10711.