Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Moral Order In The Court?

Because the Virginia Tech shooting is understandably overshadowing everything else right now, it would be easy to miss the fact that the United States Supreme Court today upheld the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, after years of various federal courts (no less than six of them) attempting to thwart the overwhelming (and repeatedly expressed) will of the American people.

It's a relatively small victory, but a very important one. Though the majority opinion (written by "moderate" Justice Anthony Kennedy) still seems to affirm the basic "right" to an abortion invented by Roe v. Wade and reasserted by Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court for the first time in the abortion era takes seriously Casey's fig leaf claim that "the State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child."

Yes, the decision gives too much deference to Casey and Roe, and no, it doesn't go far enough--probably because this was the only opinion the slim majority could've gotten Kennedy to sign off on (and indeed Kennedy was assigned to write the opinion, which has long been a strategy of Chief Justices in getting their weakest vote on board). But sometimes a strong wall has to come down brick by brick, and a pretty serious brick was removed today. For the first time in memory, the Court took back the right of the State to protect some unborn lives.

Even if we could merely get Anthony Kennedy's opinion to be read aloud in every public school with its cool, clinical and precise (and absolutely stomach-churning) discussion of abortion procedures, a major victory would've been won. For instance, as Kennedy (again, one of the swing votes on the court and by no means a conservative (and who voted for Planned Parenthood in Casey) describes it, the still perfectly legal "D&C" method goes something like this:
The woman is placed under general anesthesia or conscious sedation. The doctor, often guided by ultrasound, inserts grasping forceps through the woman's cervix and into the uterus to grab the fetus. The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed. A doctor may make 10 to 15 passes with the forceps to evacuate the fetus in its entirety, though sometimes removal is completed with fewer passes. Once the fetus has been evacuated, the placenta and any remaining fetal material are suctioned or scraped out of the uterus. The doctor examines the different parts to ensure the entire fetal body has been removed.
Let's hear the Democratic presidential nominess read that aloud and then say, "Yup, I'm for it."

All the right people are furious, which is a great sign that something good has happened here.

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