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Not Even One Day

February 22nd, 2006

Well, the Fundie Faction now ruling the Supreme Court due to the spinelessness of Senate Democrats can’t seem to wait even one day to start chipping away at Roe v. Wade. Now that they have a majority to start making abortion illegal, they are jumping at the first chance to do so. On Alito’s very first day sitting on the court, they–coincidentally, I’m sure–decided to hear a case on the so-called “Partial Birth Abortion Act,” to use the common fundamentalist misnomer/epithet for a wide range of procedures.

How is it apparent that this is the new Fundie right-wing alliance on the court swinging things? Because the Supreme Court already ruled on this matter as recently as five years ago, striking down a similar law out of Nebraska in 2000. It was upon that very recent 5-4 precedent that three federal courts ruled this new 2003 law unconstitutional. The 2003 law was designed by Republicans in Congress as an attempt to shoot down to 2000 ruling, almost as if prescient that they would get a new court to look at this, and the timing turned out to be perfect. The new court with Roberts and Alito jumped at the chance, the balance now shifted since Sandra Day O’Connor’s tie-breaking vote is one day absent from the bench.

Even though this case, Gonzales v. Carhart, is not one that could, on its merits, fully overturn Roe v. Wade, it could potentially could include a wide range of abortions, not just the more commonly construed “late-term” abortions that are now used as the straw man representation of abortion in general by the pro-life crowd. The case will probably, at least, demonstrate what Roberts and Alito did their best to deny during confirmation–that they were appointed to the bench primarily on their antagonism toward abortion law. Time to start paying off Bush for the favor he did them. And if they act this swiftly to start disassembling the precedent they claimed to respect concerning reproductive rights, it’s not hard to imagine that they will try to fully overturn Roe v. Wade and send the country back more than three decades as soon as is humanly possible.

The new law uses terminology vague enough to outlaw not just late-term abortions, but also abortions in the first and second trimester. As a result, if this court overturns the lower courts as well as its own precedent, and approves the Fundie legislation, it could lead to doctors refusing to perform most abortions on the basis of fearing prosecution by a right-wing administration intent on interpreting the law as much to their favor as possible.

But the primary difference between the two laws is that the law that was ruled on in 2000 was struck down on the basis that the “health of the mother” was not included as an exception to the ban on the procedure, technically called “intact dilation and extraction.” The 2003 law asserts that it is never medically necessary to use the procedure, though the law also provides for an exception only when the mother’s life is at risk–weasel wording to try to get the law around the 2000 ruling while at the same time defying it. The key difference here is that between the mother’s “life” and her “health,” opening the door for the procedure to be banned if the continued pregnancy would only cause the mother to become a crippled vegetable in childbirth even though the fetus is non-viable.

After all, this is the age of “compassionate conservatism.”

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