Decision May Imply "Better Reasoning" in the Future
NEW YORK, APRIL 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Catholic dioceses and organizations welcomed what many are calling the pro-life movement's first significant victory in the nation's highest court in 34 years.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision to uphold a federal ban on partial birth abortion.
California bishops hailed the decision, calling it a "ray of hope […] for the nation and for all of us striving to promote respect for life, including life of the unborn."
"It has been over 34 years since the U.S. Supreme Court created the constitutional right to abortion-on-demand, thereby invalidating all existing state laws which banned or curtailed the practice," the bishops explained. "In 2003, Congress passed an act which banned the 'partial birth' abortion procedure -- resulting in lawsuits by abortion proponents challenging its constitutionality in the federal district courts.
"Although the ban was ruled unconstitutional in all the lower court decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court's Gonzales vs. Carhart reverses all of those decisions, and affirms the constitutionality of the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act."
President George Bush also praised the decision.
"The Supreme Court's decision is an affirmation of the progress we have made over the past six years in protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life," Bush said. "We will continue to work for the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law."
Sane and sound
"The Supreme Court decision is important for two different reasons," said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver. "First, it's a sane and sound ruling on its own merits. Second, if it implies better court reasoning on abortion and related issues in the future, that's good news for the whole effort to protect human life."
Bishop Victor Galeone, moderator for the Respect Life Committee of the Florida Catholic Conference, lauded the decision, saying that the "court recognized the truth long proclaimed by both science and the Church that the child in the womb is a living human organism."
"At last, our most vulnerable brothers and sisters will be protected from the horrifying and unnecessary procedure known as partial birth abortion," he said.
In October 2003, Congress passed the ban by votes of 281-142 in the House of Representatives and 64-34 in the Senate. Bush signed it into law the following month.
Not a constitutional right
Court challenges kept the ban from being put into effect, but Wednesday's ruling that the partial birth abortion procedure does not deny a woman's so-called constitutional right to abortion meant a victory for pro-lifers.
Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Catholic lay organization, said: "The Supreme Court decision in Gonzales vs. Carhart is a major milestone in the battle to end the destruction of innocent human life in America."
Anderson underlined, "Finally, after nearly a decade of court battles, the way has been cleared to implement the bipartisan judgment of Congress that partial birth abortion is brutal and inhumane, and must be prohibited."
"We also strongly agree with Justice Thomas, who wrote a short, separate concurring opinion reiterating his view 'that the court's abortion jurisprudence, including Casey and Roe v. Wade, has no basis in the Constitution.'"
President and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, Richard Thompson, agreed: "This Supreme Court decision may very well signal the willingness of the court under Chief Justice Roberts to revisit its infamous Roe vs. Wade decision and end legalized abortion in this country."
Out of control
The ban does not restrict performing an abortion but only how it is performed. It bans the particular procedure of "intact dilation and extraction," which involves partially removing the fetus from the womb and then puncturing the baby's skull and extracting the brain, then delivering the rest of the dead body.
Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, said: "The court action is a victory for common sense and a victory for unborn children and their mothers.
"We believe it will restore some sanity and balance to our legal system by placing reasonable restrictions on the out-of-control abortion industry."
"Finally, we are grateful to the five-member majority of Supreme Court who saw partial birth abortion for what it is -- child abuse -- and let sanity prevail."