WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Federation (NAF) today sharply criticized a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a federal law banning certain abortions. It is the first abortion decision from the Supreme Court since Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retired. Both organizations said that the Court's decision will endanger women's health.
"Today's decision has placed politics above protecting women's health," said Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of NAF. "This ruling is a set back for all Americans who believe politicians should not legislate medical decision-making. The decision disregards the opinion of leading doctors and medical organizations that oppose the ban because it is harmful to women's health."
The Court ruled today on two challenges to the federal abortion ban, called by its sponsors the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act." The two cases are Gonzales v. Carhart, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart and three other physicians, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of its affiliates throughout the country.
A third challenge to the ban, National Abortion Federation v. Gonzales, was brought by NAF and seven individual physicians, represented by the ACLU, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, the ACLU of Illinois, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. In 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit put that case on hold until the Supreme Court issued a decision in the other two cases. Today's Supreme Court decision requires that the ban be upheld in this case as well.
"Today's decision undermines a core principle of Roe v. Wade that women's health must remain paramount," said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "The decision invites politicians to meddle even further into the doctor-patient relationship by passing additional restrictions on abortion."
Leading doctors and medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which represents 90 percent of OB-GYNs in this country, opposed the federal ban.
Congress passed the federal abortion ban and President Bush signed it into law in 2003, despite numerous court decisions striking down similar state bans, including the decision in 2000 by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart.
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her dissent to today's opinion: "Though today's opinion does not go so far as to discard Roe or Casey, the Court, differently composed than it was when we last considered a restrictive abortion regulation, is hardly faithful to our earlier invocations of ‘the rule of law' and the ‘principles of stare decisis.'"
Today's cases are Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, No. 05-1382 and Gonzales v. Carhart, No. 05-380.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in the United States and Canada. Our mission is to ensure safe, legal, and accessible abortion care to promote health and justice for women. Our members include health care professionals at clinics, doctors' offices, and hospitals, who together care for more than half the women who choose abortion each year. For more information, visit our website at www.prochoice.org.
The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. For more information, visit: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights.