It was a startling moment–a candidate standing on the Presidential debate stage, defending a long-outlawed practice in which a baby is partly delivered, then killed. The gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion has been illegal in this country for nine years–ever since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton continues to stand by her vote against the law.
Because the issue of partial-birth abortion was settled so long ago, it’s as if Campaign 2016 has traveled back in time and space to the ’90s, when the horrific procedure was a matter of course for some abortionists. But the High Court decision Gonzales v. Carhart, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, brought an end to that era, with stinging words such as this:
“The [Partial-Birth Abortion Ban] Act proscribes a method of abortion in which a fetus is killed just inches before completion of the birth process. Congress stated as follows: ‘Implicitly approving such a brutal and inhumane procedure by choosing not to prohibit it will further coarsen society to the humanity of not only newborns, but all vulnerable and innocent human life, making it increasingly difficult to protect such life.’ The Act expresses respect for the dignity of human life.”
The ban on partial-birth abortion was a mark of progress in this country. Some young adults today may not even know about the practice, which bordered on infanticide. In fact, at a forum I attended recently, attendees were asking questions about it–questions I have not heard in years, since the Capitol Hill and courtroom battles over it were waged so long ago.
The Supreme Court had enormous justification for banning partial-birth abortion in 2007. It was a move toward greater compassion for the pre-born child, and for an enhanced sense of justice for the most vulnerable among us. Those who defended partial-birth abortion in the early part of the 21st century were on the wrong side of history then–and they’re on the wrong side of history now.