What follows is a media advisory
from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) in Washington,
D.C., issued on February 21, 2006, regarding today's announcement by
the U.S. Supreme Court that it has accepted the Bush
Administration's request that it review a lower-court ruling
invalidating the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. For
additional information or to arrange an interview on this subject,
send e-mail to
email@example.com or call 202-626-8825.
U.S. SUPREME COURT
AGREES TO REVIEW
FEDERAL PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION BAN ACT
WASHINGTON (February 21, 2006) -- Six years after its much-criticized
ruling that Roe v. Wade fully protects the brutal practice of
partial-birth abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to take
another look at the issue.
The justices announced that they would review a lower-court ruling
that has blocked enforcement of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act,
a bill signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 5,
2003. The Bush Administration had urged the Court to accept the
appeal, most recently in a
brief filed by the
Solicitor General on February 14.
The Court will hear arguments and decide the case during its next
term, which begins in October.
Commenting on today's Court announcement, Douglas Johnson,
legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee
(NRLC), said, "Unless the Supreme Court now reverses the extreme
position that five justices took in 2000, partly born premature
infants will continue to die by having their skulls punctured by
In 2000, five justices of the Supreme Court, including recently
retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, ruled that the abortion right
originally created in Roe v. Wade allows an abortionist to
perform a partial-birth abortion any time he sees a 'health'
benefit, even if the woman and her unborn baby are entirely healthy.
(Stenberg v. Carhart, June 28, 2000) This ruling struck down
the ban on partial-birth abortion that had been enacted by Nebraska,
and rendered unenforceable the similar bans that more than half the
states had enacted.
Nevertheless, in 2003 Congress approved and President Bush signed a
national law, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. When he signed the
ban, the President called partial-birth abortion "a terrible form of
violence [that] has been directed against children who are inches
from birth." He spoke the literal truth.
The federal law bans "partial-birth abortion," a legal term of art,
defined in the law itself as any abortion in which the baby is
delivered "past the [baby's] navel . . . outside the body of the
mother," OR "in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire
fetal head is outside the body of the mother," BEFORE being killed.
The complete official text of the law, in a searchable format, is
The law would allow the method
if it was ever necessary to save a mother's life. However, it does
not allow an abortionist to use the method any time he asserts that
it might be slightly preferable to some other method, even for women
with no health problems, which is what the five justices required in
the 2000 ruling.
Three different federal courts of appeals have ruled that the
federal law conflicts with the 2000 Supreme Court decision, and they
have blocked enforcement of the law. The Supreme Court today agreed
to review the first of those appeals court rulings, a July 2005
ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (Gonzales
On January 31, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth and
Second Circuits also ruled that the federal law conflicts with the
2000 Supreme Court ruling. However, in the
Circuit case (National Abortion Federation v. Gonzales),
one of the two judges who voted against the law also criticized the
Supreme Court's previous ruling, and another judge filed a strong
THE CURRENT COURT AND ROE V. WADE
Among currently sitting Supreme Court justices, five have voted in
favor of Roe v. Wade -- that is, in support of the doctrine
that abortion must be allowed for any reason until "viability"
(about five and one-half months), and for "health" reasons (broadly
defined) even during the final three months of pregnancy. They are
justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens, and Kennedy.
Two justices (Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas) have voted to
overturn Roe, and two (John Roberts and Samuel Alito) have
not voted on the matter.
Justice Kennedy, although a supporter of Roe, voted in the
2000 Stenberg case to allow Nebraska to ban the partial-birth
On September 14, 2005, the Los Angeles Times published an
eye-opening examination, written by its veteran Supreme Court
reporter, on the true scope of the "right to abortion" created by
the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and more recent rulings,
which are still often badly misunderstood. (It is here.) The article
also summarizes documents that reveal the internal processes at the
Supreme Court that produced Roe v. Wade in 1973.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nation's major
right-to-life organization, led the coalition that resulted in
enactment of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003, after an
eight-year fight. The NRLC website contains the Internet's most
expansive archive of documents pertaining to all facets of the
debate over partial-birth abortion, here:
Any journalist or editorialist
examining the issue of partial-birth abortion will benefit from
reading, at a minimum, "Partial-Birth Abortion: Misconceptions and
Realities," a memo written by NRLC Legislative Director Douglas
Johnson, who played a key role in the long debate over the
legislation. This memo addresses common misconceptions and
misinformation about partial-birth abortion, with links to primary
documents, including interviews with partial-birth abortionists and
investigative reports in American Medical News, the New York Times,
PBS, and other news media. The memo is here:
The memo addresses these topics: the actual language and legal
intent of the bill; why "partial-birth abortion" is a legal term of
art that is NOT synonymous with various pseudo-medical jargon terms
used by the law's opponents; how use of the nebulous label
"late-term abortion" distorts the debate; whether President Bush's
statement (November 5, 2003) that partial-birth abortion is violence
directed against those who are "inches from birth" is medically and
legally accurate; evidence regarding how many partial-birth
abortions are performed; acknowledgments by the National Coalition
of Abortion Providers that "in the vast majority of cases, the
procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that
is 20 weeks or more along"; key turning points in the eight-year
congressional debate; and polls of doctors, obstetricians, nurses,
and the general public regarding the ban. The memo also discusses
how documented medical illustrations of two different abortion
methods can allow the public to better evaluate claims and
counterclaims on what the law actually covers and does not cover.
A collection of key documents pertinent to various medical claims
surrounding partial-birth abortion -- some of which are real
eye-openers -- are posted here:
During the summer of 2004, U.S. District Judge Richard Casey
presided over a trial in New York in one of the three legal
challenges to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (National
Abortion Federation v. Gonzales), during which he directly
questioned a number of abortionists regarding how partial-birth
abortions are performed. Attorney Cathy Cleaver Ruse has prepared a
distillation of that eye-opening testimony, just published in the
current (Spring 2005) issue of the Human Life Review under the title
"Partial-Birth Abortion on Trial." That article is posted in PDF
Following the trial, on August
26, 2004, Judge Casey issued an opinion stating, "The Court finds
that the testimony at trial and before Congress establishes that D&X
[partial-birth abortion] is a gruesome, brutal, barbaric, and
uncivilized medical procedure . . . [and finds] credible evidence
that D&X abortions subject fetuses to severe pain." Nevertheless,
Judge Casey also ruled that the federal ban was in conflict with the
2000 Supreme Court ruling in Stenberg.
Note: Aside from the legal challenges to the federal
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, described above, the Commonwealth of
Virginia has filed a request for the Supreme Court to review a
ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, holding
that a similar state law, banning "partial birth infanticide,"
contradicts the 2000 Supreme Court decision. This case is called
Herring v. Richmond Medical Center for Women. The Supreme Court
is scheduled to vote on whether to accept this case on March 17.
National Right to Life is the nation's largest pro-life
organization, with 50 state affiliates and approximately 3,000 local
affiliates nationwide. NRLC works through legislation and education
to protect those threatened by abortion, infanticide, euthanasia,
and assisted suicide.