Partial-birth abortion ruling: Where is the victory?

Commentary by Judie Brown

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold restrictions on partial-birth abortion (actually, it's infanticide) in most cases has stirred up the folks who support the act of abortion in ways that boggle my simple mind. Goodness! If we believe their rhetoric, we would have to admit that indeed, the sky is falling and all people of good will should run for the hills.

I'm so sorry to have to burst this bubble of fear and hysteria, but it is perhaps time to be realistic rather than emotionally blathering about what five Catholic men on the Supreme Court actually did-and more importantly, what they did not do.

In the pro-abortion world, the Gonzales v. Carhart decision is described in headlines that at best create false impressions and at worst generate total deceit. I have seen each of these statements over the past few days, and realize that this is why the vast majority of Americans are so sadly ill-informed. Here but a few of these illogical statements:


  • Gonzales v. Carhart creates the perfect storm
  • The decision is taking aim at all abortion rights
  • Our worst fears realized
  • Abortion vote splits the country
  • Abortion is unsavory but it is still a woman’s choice
  • New abortion ruling endangers women
  • Gonzales v. Carhart decision a medical mistake
  • Five men have dramatically shifted the abortion debate


One can only wonder if anybody actually read the decision. Or perhaps they all feel it best to ignore what the decision said and raise money for their cause through deception. Or even worse, they're totally misrepresenting what is at stake-just energizing their supporters to quickly write a check and to not even think about asking any questions.

To be honest, however, far too many leaders within the pro-life movement have been doing the same thing for 10 years. As Denver’s Rev. Bob Enyart recently pointed out, tens of millions of dollars have been raised to defend this faulty law and during those 10 years, millions of preborn children have been killed by acts of abortion. Even now, with the Supreme Court having ruled the partial birth abortion law constitutional, the hard truth is that not a single abortion will be stopped. Rev. Enyart accurately points out that law enforcement cannot use this law to protect a single preborn child from death by abortion.

The 10-year debate over this particularly gruesome form of infanticide has certainly raised public awareness about the procedure’s ghastly nature. Thank God such practices will no longer be allowed-unless a doctor can show that he inadvertently delivered a living fetus, 90 percent of the way, because he claims he had to do so to save a woman’s life.

The sad fact is that even though the pundits are now telling us that abortion will be a key issue in the 2008 political campaigns, the reality is that there is a critical aspect missing from this discussion: the exposition of the scientific fact that every single time a surgical or medical abortion is performed, a human being is killed. One type of abortion is not worse than another. Every abortion, regardless of how it is carried out, is evil. Every abortion is a crime.

The human being who is the victim of abortion is rarely the focus of the public discussion. Take another look at those headlines. We seem to be concentrating on “rights,” “political reality” and semantics designed to raise money, get votes and keep everybody in line in the process. Why has the agenda deleted the facts? Why are we more interested in the hype than we are in the actual facts?

Even as abortion proponents, as I have indicated above, are well on their way to frightening all of us to death, some of the better known pro-life groups have showered us with glowing news statements celebrating a major victory. But why? Where’s the beef?

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion states that “a fetus is a living organism within the womb, whether or not it is viable outside the womb.” Kennedy then writes that “an abortion not involving such partial delivery is permitted.” In other words, tearing the baby’s body limb from limb inside the womb-which is called a standard D&E abortion-is acceptable; delivering 90 percent of the baby before killing him is not acceptable. Kennedy goes on to state that it “was reasonable for Congress to think that partial-birth abortion, more than standard D&E, undermines the public’s perception of the doctor’s appropriate role during delivery and perverts the birth process.”

Note, please, that Kennedy uses politically correct language. No passion need be part of a scholarly decision. But he also makes it excruciatingly clear that those very same heinous abortion procedures are OK as long as the baby dies in his mother’s womb rather than after he is 90 percent delivered.

There is no doubt in my mind that the five Catholic justices who concurred in the opinion agree that partial-birth infanticide is cruel and inhumane. What is not clear is whether this decision is really a step toward re-criminalizing surgical abortion and defining it as an act that kills a human person.

For example, the decision explains, “If intact D&E is truly necessary in some circumstances, it appears likely an injection that kills the fetus is an alternative under the Act that allows the doctor to perform the procedure.” Additionally, the justices tell opponents of the law that if they believe the act should have contained a health of the mother exception, they must bring those arguments before the court in an appropriate case, which thus far they have not done.

To my mind, this decision is fraught with deliberately crafted language that not only accommodates Roe v. Wade and its progeny, but does little to suggest that the justices are even concerned about setting forth adequate protections for a single preborn baby whose body is not 90 percent outside the womb.

So while so many on the pro-abortion side are screaming, and too many on the pro-life side are cracking open the champagne, nearly everyone is being left in the dark; and I am left with a real dilemma.

Not once in that decision did the justices even remotely suggest that the preborn child is a human being. Not once did they stipulate that the act of abortion is direct killing. So while the Houston Chronicle opines that “The court's ruling assaults the autonomy not only of women’s physicians, but of women, themselves,” I get this sinking feeling that public relations, politics and polemics have completely taken over and nobody is any longer interested in pointing out that if those five justices were truly attempting to do something historic, they would have at least mentioned the four-letter word b-a-b-y. Or is that word now too pejorative to be considered part of the legal lexicon?

Victory? Perfect Storm? How about extraordinary disappointment.

Release issued: 26 Apr 07