Exposing the deception behind the pro-life movement’s assault on a woman’s right to choose, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Nebraska’s ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion” an unconstitutional violation of Roe v. Wade.
The ban, which potentially prohibited many types of abortion (erroneously deemed “partial-birth abortions” by anti-choice activists) was declared unconstitutional by a close 5-4 decision. In a majority opinion, the justices said the Nebraska law violates women’s constitutional rights by imposing an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to choose an abortion. Disclosing the deceptive language used in bans such as these, the court determined that the statute was so broad and vague that it could possibly prohibit some abortion procedures performed early in pregnancy, which are also constitutionally protected. The court also determined that the ban was extreme because it makes no exemption for a woman’s health, and criminalizes doctors.
Nebraska is one of 31 states which have passed bans on so-called “partial-birth abortions.” Courts have already enjoined or overturned laws in 18 states. Opponents of these bans hope that the Supreme Court’s ruling will have a domino effect, making other state and federal bans unenforceable.
While the decision to strike down the statute is a victory, the slight majority demonstrates how fragile the right to abortion is. It is clear that slight changes in the composition of the Supreme Court could create a shift in majority opinion, putting Roe in real danger. The next president will appoint at least 2 Supreme Court justices. It is critical for proponents of abortion rights to continue their fight for women’s rights in the legislative and judicial arenas.