High Court tackles ‘partial-birth’ abortion again

Question new law's protection for maternal health
The man who may cast the deciding vote in the Supreme Court's first major abortion cases in six years tipped his hand little during oral arguments early this month.

Justice Anthony Kennedy asked a cascade of highly technical questions of attorneys for each side in the two related cases, Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood. Calmly and methodically during the arguments November 8, he inquired about the medical and legal specifics of a subject that has provoked heated political and social debate in recent years—a procedure opponents label "partial-birth abortion."

The cases involve the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Kennedy and his colleagues will consider whether the ban is unconstitutional because it does not contain an exemption designed to protect the health of the mother, because it is unconstitutionally vague, or because it places too heavy a burden on women seeking abortions.


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