Courts suspend ‘partial-birth’ ban

matt.nash@marquette.edu

Since President Bush signed a bill banning “partial-birth” late-term abortions, three federal judges have temporarily suspended enforcement of the ban.

“In three different courts throughout the country, the courts ruled that plaintiffs will win on the merits of their case,” said American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Julie Sternberg. She is involved in one case in New York where a federal judge issued a temporary order “which barred the Department of Justice from enforcing the act and is in effect until Nov. 21,” she said.

The ACLU was representing the seven individual doctors and the National Abortion Federation, she said. According to its Web site, the National Abortion Federation is a professional association of abortion providers in the United States and Canada.

Sternberg said she thinks the Supreme Court will overturn the law because it overturned a similar Nebraska law in 2000.

Political Science Professor John McAdams disagrees.

“The U.S. statute is not quite the same as (the one in) Nebraska,” he said. The Nebraska law vaguely defined “partial-birth” abortion, which is one reason the court overturned the Nebraska law. McAdams said the federal law more clearly defines the term.

The federal law bans “partial-birth” abortions, making it illegal for doctors to perform them unless the woman’s life is at risk. Opponents of the law take issue with the lack of a provision for the procedure to be performed if the woman’s health is at risk.

“The real issue here is not the actual health of the woman,” McAdams said. He said since the fetus is almost completely out of the birth canal during this procedure, it would not adversely impair a woman’s physical health to fully deliver the child. He said those who oppose the law want the provision so they can include mental health.

McAdams said a woman could easily find a psychologist or psychiatrist to endorse this procedure on the grounds that going through with the pregnancy would harm her mental health.

However, those who oppose the law say the lack of a health provision is a violation of the woman’s rights.

“Denying a woman the right to decide about her own health, and giving that (right) to a politician, to me, as a woman, that’s just wrong,” said Natalya Dobrowolsky, one of the students pushing for the recognition of Vox as a Marquette student organization.

“A mother is a human being, and to put her rights under something that is not technically a human being yet is, I think, wrong,” she said.

Lora Helm, president of Marquette University’s Students for Life, said the recent court decisions “fires (pro-life people) up more to do what we can to love these women and change their hearts. Legislatively all we can do is pray and vote.”

“It angers me how — knowing (how the procedure is done) — people can still want it legalized because it’s so barbaric and obviously killing a child,” she said.

“This is all about next November,” theology professor Dan Maguire said. Bush “is emoting over a necessary procedure that, in very rare cases, doctors and women say is necessary to protect a woman’s health.” He said Bush is “courting votes from the religious right and conservative Catholics.”

McAdams agreed Bush had political motives, but said Bush “does in fact believe that ‘partial-birth’ abortion is evil. He’s also forced Democrats to take a rather extreme position.”

He said a majority of Americans oppose this procedure and that it was “good politically (for Bush) to force (Democrats) into an extreme position.”