High Court Hears Partial-Birth Abortion Cases, Kennedy Says Women “Might be in Serious Trouble”

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


The day after what would have been the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban was defeated by voters in South Dakota the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases involving challenges to the 2003 federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortion. With four conservative justices certainly against and four liberal ones for the decision seems to ride on Justice Anthony Kennedy who sits in the center of the court on abortion issues.

Today the court heard two hours of arguments full of exacting, graphic descriptions of abortion procedures and according to reports, throughout the session Kennedy appeared troubled by the potential implications of the law. Would it leave few legal alternatives in cases in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life? How frequently is a late-term procedure medically necessary? Would doctors be held criminally liable for performing emergency late-term abortions when they had no other choice? Kennedy pressed both sides in the case on those questions, and hinted that he thinks the federal law may be too restrictive, saying:

If a woman in need of a lifesaving, late-term abortion were to rely on a court’s quick action, she might be in serious trouble. I don’t know if you could just go to a district judge and say, `I need an order.’ The judge would take – would have to take – many hours to understand that.

The government says the law survives constitutional scrutiny because of Congress’ fact-finding and its interest in preventing “infanticide,” a word that came up several times during the hearings.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate