Communications Department

Partial-Birth Abortion Returns to the U.S. Supreme Court

Nov 7, 2006 | 2006 Press Releases

This is an update from the National Right to Life Committee in Washington, D.C., issued Tuesday, November 7, 2006.  For further information on this issue, contact NRLC at 202-626-8820

Tomorrow (November 8, 2006), the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases arising from legal challenges to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, a federal law enacted in 2003 with support from NRLC. 

The law bans “partial-birth abortion,” a legal term of art, defined in the law itself as any abortion in which the baby is delivered feet-first “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,” beforebeing killed.  The complete official text of the law, in a searchable format, is here.

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.  Today’s Los Angeles Times contains a story by Supreme Court reporter David G. Savage, “Abortion Method Returns to Justices,” that highlights NRLC’s role in the origination and advancement of the legislation.

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 “Partial-Birth Abortion: Misconceptions and Realities,” a memo written by NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.  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 addresses these topics:  the actual language and legal intent of the bill; why “partial-birth abortion” is a necessary and appropriate legal term of art that fits into the framework of existing law regarding what constitutes a “live birth”; how the media’s use of the nebulous label “late-term abortion” distorts the debate over the law; 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”; 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 the evaluate claims and counterclaims on what the law actually covers and does not cover. 

A collection of key documents (some of them real eye-openers) pertinent to various medical claims surrounding partial-birth abortion 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’s distillation of that revealing testimony, published in the Spring 2005 issue of the Human Life Review under the title “Partial-Birth Abortion on Trial,” is posted in PDF format here.

*  NRLC’s statement on the pending case is here.