Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Has Stopped 11,000 Abortions

Opinion   |   Casey Mattox   |   Apr 19, 2012   |   3:01PM   |   Washington, DC

For the past five years, every dawn has brought additional evidence of the fact that Planned Parenthood and its allies in the abortion industry cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the one thing they should know well – abortion. Just over five years ago, on April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court announced its opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart, holding that the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was constitutional. Since then, we have lived in a world where partial-birth abortions have been illegal in the United States under federal law (and now many state laws).

Yet the most valuable part of the Gonzales opinion may not be its upholding of the PBA Ban, but the fact that it called the abortion industry’s bluff. And history has now demonstrated that Planned Parenthood and its allies were holding a joker.

The Gonzales decision held that the federal ban on partial-birth abortions, except where necessary to save a woman’s life, was facially constitutional – meaning that generally speaking the ban was constitutionally sound. Opponents of the ban, including Planned Parenthood and their allies, had argued strenuously that the law was unconstitutional because it lacked a “health” exception. The Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s de facto research arm, claimed that roughly 2,200 (probably a low estimate as Ramesh Ponnoru explains at the link) occurred in a representative year prior to the ban – almost all of which were performed because they were necessary to protect a woman’s health.

Congress had omitted the exception because of evidence that such an exception was not necessary in practice and that such an exception would merely be used to circumvent the law entirely, with abortionists claiming falsely that virtually every partial-birth abortion was necessary for “health” reasons, and in Doe v. Bolton, the companion case to Roe v. Wade, the court had created a health exemption so wide that it covered just about everything including depression.

Congress’s judgment was buttressed by a statement from the American Medical Association that partial-birth abortion was “not medically indicated.” Indeed, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also agreed that partial-birth abortion was virtually never (if ever) necessary before then Solicitor General Kagan intervened to prevent what she called “a disaster” and proposed alternative language for ACOG in its written testimony to Congress.

The Court didn’t have to decide that a health exception was always unnecessary as a factual matter, deferring to Congress’s judgment on the matter. It simply refused to declare the whole law unconstitutional because of the theoretical possibility that a woman might need an abortion for a non-life-threatening health reason. But importantly, the Court held that abortionists could bring future challenges to the law on behalf of actual women who needed a partial-birth abortion for true health reasons.

Hours after the decision, Planned Parenthood was still warning of its imminent negative impact on women’s health. The battle seemingly joined, Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion, citing the ACOG/Kagan language, specifically invited as-applied challenges on behalf of the alleged thousands of women who needed the partial-birth abortion procedure for health reasons: “One may anticipate that such a preenforcement challenge will be mounted swiftly, to ward off serious, sometimes irremediable harm, to women whose health would be endangered by the intact D&E prohibition.”

Over five years later, Justice Ginsburg and the nation still wait. Although women’s health was allegedly immediately harmed by the decision, we have not yet seen an as-applied challenge on behalf of one of these women, nor have we seen even one documented story of a woman whose health was impacted by the unavailability of a partial-birth abortion. If we accept Guttmacher’s figure of approximately 2,200 partial-birth abortions per year, then the decision in Gonzales – upholding the law and lifting the injunction against it – has prevented 11,000 partial-birth abortions from occurring.



And recall that the argument was that this one procedure was the only way to protect a woman’s health. It was necessary, we were told. And yet, there is no evidence whatsoever that any woman’s health has been harmed by the unavailability of this procedure. No as-applied challenge as invited by Justice Ginsburg, no Newsweek cover story, no Rachel Maddow Show interview of a woman whose identity is hidden, no Journal of the American Medical Association article, nothing.

What are we to believe now that we have over five years of a lack of such evidence? I see four options:

(1) Planned Parenthood and its allies were being truthful, and up until April 18, 2007, approximately six partial-birth abortions per day were performed for health reasons – but by an incredible blessing, those health threats ceased on that morning until the present. I’ll call this the “dispensational” argument.

(2) Planned Parenthood and its allies were correct, and women have been harmed by the Gonzales decision, but the abortion lobby lacks the financial and legal resources to file a challenge on behalf of one of these thousands of women.

(3) The abortion industry continues to perform partial-birth abortions in violation of federal law.

(4) The claim by Planned Parenthood and its allies that partial-birth abortions were – and are – necessary to protect women’s health is untrue.


Draw your own conclusions about which of these is the more likely explanation. But should it surprise us that Planned Parenthood and its abortion industry allies are willing to lie and distort the facts in order to protect their sacred (and coincidentally – cash) cow? With roughly $8 million in documented waste, abuse, and potential fraud in just a few Planned Parenthood affiliates – should we be surprised? When you’re in the killing business, lying is easy.

For more than five years, every day has brought more evidence to answer this question. Will Planned Parenthood and its abortion industry allies lie about “women’s health” in order to further their ideology of death and support their bottom line? As surely as the sun rises in the east.

LifeNews Note:  Casey Mattox is an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund.