Samuel Alito Comment Has Implications for Partial-Birth Abortion Case

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 10, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Samuel Alito Comment Has Implications for Partial-Birth Abortion Case Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 10, 2006

Washington, DC ( — Comments Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito made on Tuesday have strong implications for a case that the high court may accept regarding the national ban on partial-birth abortions.

When Congress approved the federal partial-birth abortion ban, the legislation came after a 2000 Supreme Court decision saying such bans are unconstitutional without a health exception, even though the three-day long abortion procedure is never medically necessary.

Responding to the decision, Congress included a lengthy findings section, detailing the hearings it held on partial-birth abortions, in hopes it would persuade the nation’s top court that a health exception is unnecessary.

The findings section cites an American Medical Association convened to study the issue of partial-birth abortions. The expert panel “could not find ‘any’ identified circumstance” where partial-birth abortion “was ‘the only appropriate alternative’” to preserve the health of the mother."

It also indicated partial-birth abortions may pose health risks for women. Such risks include cervical incompetence, trauma to the uterus, and lacerations or hemorrhaging.

On Tuesday, pro-life Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican, asked Alit what he thought about findings sections in general.

"In your opinion, what role should a judge play when reviewing congressional fact-finding," DeWine asked. "[H]ow can you assure us — that you will show appropriate deference to the role of Congress?"

Alito indicated "the judiciary should have great respect for findings of fact that are made by Congress."

He discussed an unrelated case and said his decision in the case would have "been very different for me if Congress had made findings."

Alito said he was "fully aware" that legislative bodies like Congress or state legislatures are in a better position to hold hearings and obtain information about complex political issues.

"Members of Congress hear from their constituents," Alito explained. "Congress can have hearings and examine complex social issues, receive statistical data, hear testimony from experts, analyze that and synthesize that and reduce that to findings."

Therefore, "when Congress makes findings on questions that have a bearing on the constitutionality of legislation, I think they are entitled to great respect."

The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will take a case on appeal from a federal appeals court where pro-abortion groups seek to declare the national partial-birth abortion ban unconstitutional.