Supreme Court Will Again Weigh Health Exception on Partial-Birth Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Supreme Court Will Again Weigh Health Exception on Partial-Birth Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 6
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — The nation’s high court will hold hearings on the federal partial-birth abortion on Wednesday. When it does, the Supreme Court will again consider whether or not such a ban needs a health exception, or if the gruesome abortion procedure is unnecessary to protect the mother’s health.

When Congress drafted the national partial-birth abortion ban, it did not include a health exception and a leading pro-life congressman discussed the implications of such an exemption.

"The problem with the health exception is we have a number of abortionists who have testified that any pregnancy is a risk to a woman’s health," Rep. Steve Chabot, an Ohio Republican who shepherded the ban in the House, told National Public Radio.

"So if you have a health exception in there, in essence, you have a phony partial-birth abortion ban," explained.

Chabot said doctors told Congress that partial-birth abortions don’t serve any useful medical purpose and there’s never an instance where the abortion procedure would protect a woman’s health.

"We had extensive medical testimony indicating that a partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary, and, in fact, is actually oftentimes harmful to the woman. And that’s the reason we did not include a health exception," Chabot told NPR.

During the hearings, Congress heard about an American Medical Association study conducted by an expert panel it convened. The physicians involved indicated they “could not find ‘any’ identified circumstance” where partial-birth abortion “was ‘the only appropriate alternative’” to preserve the health of the mother.

As Chabot explained, partial-birth abortions pose additional risks to women in addition to the normal list of physical, medical and emotions damages. Such risks include cervical incompetence, trauma to the uterus, and lacerations or hemorrhaging.

After President Bush signed the partial-birth abortion ban, pro-abortion groups launched three lawsuits against it and federal appeals courts in Nebraska, New York and California declared the ban unconstitutional.

Pro-life groups are hopeful the Supreme Court would take a new position on partial-birth abortion thanks to new Justice Samuel Alito, who replaces Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

O’Connor wrote the 5-4 majority opinion in the 2000 case saying that a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion was unconstitutional because it lacked a health exception.

It is unknown how many partial-birth abortions occur annually in the United States, but estimates place the number anywhere from 5,000-10,000.

The California case is Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the high court will likely combine the cases into one. The Nebraska case is Gonzales v. Carhart.