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Roe v. Wade and the Current Supreme Court

Oct 4, 2005 | Judicial

Some recent stories in the news media incorporate incorrect information or assumptions about the legal status quo on abortion.  On September 14, 2005, the Los Angeles Times published an eye-opening examination, written by its veteran Supreme Court reporter, on the true scope of the “right to abortion” created by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and more recent rulings, which are still often badly misunderstood.  (It is here.)  The article also summarizes documents that reveal the internal processes at the Supreme Court that produced Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Among currently sitting Supreme Court justices, six (including Sandra Day O’Connor) have voted in favor of Roe v. Wade — that is, in support of the doctrine that abortion must be allowed for any reason until “viability” (about five and one-half months), and for “health” reasons (broadly defined) even during the final three months of pregnancy.  Two justices (Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas) have voted to overturn Roe, and one (John Roberts) has not voted on the matter.

A refutation of the myth that the Supreme Court has been divided 5 to 4 on Roe v. Wade, issued by the Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org, is posted here:http://www.factcheck.org/article176.html

However, regarding the permissibility of a meaningful ban on partial-birth abortion, the current Court is split 5-3 in favor of partial-birth abortion (not counting Chief Justice Roberts, who has not voted on the issue).   In 2000, Justice O’Connor voted to say that Roe v. Wade prevented bans on partial-birth abortion. (Stenberg v. Carhart, 2000)  On September 23, the Bush Administration’s Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court to accept for review, this term, a lower-court ruling that struck down the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.  The Solicitor General’s petition is posted here.

On November 30, 2005, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, a case which will determine whether states can continue to require that a parent be notified before an abortion is performed on a minor daughter.  Some observers believe that the case may be decided on a 5-4 vote, one way or the other.

National Right to Life is the nation’s largest pro-life organization, with 50 state affiliates and approximately 3,000 local affiliates nationwide.  NRLC works through legislation and education to protect those threatened by abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.

Categories: Judicial