a bird and a bottle

Why Gonzales v. Carhart Matters

One of the most common comments I’ve seen around the blogosphere (sometimes from trolls, sometimes not) since yesterday’s ruling is that the decision doesn’t matter — that it only affects one procedure which is performed very infrequently. As I noted in a post yesterday, the decision matters a lot. In large part, its impact will come from the fact that it sanctions abortion restrictions that don’t have an exception for women’s health.

Another big reason (or rather, several reasons) this case matters is (are) clear in today’s L.A. Times article, aptly titled “Anti-abortion activists Look to Build on Court Victory“. Based on an interview with Operation Rescue‘s head (OR is Randall Terry’s baby), the article is a bullet-point list of the wingnut anti-choicers’ plans in the wake of Gonzales v. Carhart:

— Ban all abortion of viable fetuses, unless the mother’s life is endangered.

— Ban mid- and late-term abortion for fetal abnormality, such as Down syndrome or a malformed brain.

— Require doctors to tell patients in explicit detail what the abortion will involve, show them ultrasound images of the fetus and warn them that they might become suicidal after the procedure.

— Lengthen waiting periods so women must reflect on such counseling for several days before obtaining the abortion.

It is far from certain that the Supreme Court would uphold all these proposals. But anti-abortion activists clearly feel momentum is on their side.

In particular, they’re pleased that the court upheld an outright ban — with no exceptions — on a surgical procedure performed in the second trimester, when the fetus is too large to be evacuated through a suction tube.

Still think Gonzales was an unimportant blip?

(via Scott)

5 Comments so far
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I’m not sure how bullet points 3 and 4 follow from Gonzales. States have been slowly passing informed consent provisions, which to my knowledge are generally upheld. Bullet point 1 is increasingly irrelevant, since the main method for post-viability abortion is D&X, and at any rate Roe explicitly permits banning abortion beginning slightly after viability.

Comment by Alon Levy

With all the handwringing over Gonzales v. Carhart It is important to note that the United States has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the world. This is the case even when compared to abortion laws in western Europe. This demonstrated when one contrasts the differences between the American solution and the European style solution. The American version resulted from the Supreme Court deciding the issue while the European solutions were formed by their legislatures.
America > No regulation of abortion permitted for the interest of preserving the life of the fetus until viability at 18- 24 weeks (i.e. 6 months)
Europe > All of the western countries reviewed allowed regulation in the interest of the fetus beginning around 10-12 weeks. Sweden latest at 18 weeks

America >No waiting period permitted, even 24 hours is interference with women’s freedom of choice.

Europe >Brief waiting period before request for for abortion and the procedure.

America >No alternatives to abortion will be given to women as part of abortion process.

Europe > Women will be informed about alternatives to abortion, including #1. adoption. #2. maternal assistance provided if the women chooses to bear the child.
Europe > Does not have a large private, profit- making abortion industry Abortion procedures are carefully regulated. One of the regulations is a limit to the percent of abortion procedures at any given site.
America > The courts speak about a “constitutional right” to abortion. The U.S. is the only country that states its a “right” to have an abortion. The values advocated are #1. individual privacy. #2. woman’s sovereignty over her body
Europe > Statutes start by stating an affirmation of sanctity of human life, but state an abortion is freely available in “distress” (France), or “hardship” (German) in early pregnancy. The values advocated are #1. respect for human life #2. compassion for women in vulnerable circumstances

Comment by Fitz

Fitz, let’s face it, if Europe were more liberal on abortion than the US and I noted that to you, you’d start going on about how Europe is a hotbed of sin.

But since you asked, abortion is generally available in all EU countries but four, at least early in the pregnancy. Of those four, one is about to legalize abortion, and another is under considerable fire from the EU courts for failing to include health exceptions.

Comment by Alon Levy

Additionally, Fitz, since cost and availability are a greater impediment to abortion access in America those almost anything else, can you say a few words about how much abortions cost in Western Europe and their availability in these countries? What about access to birth control? Sex education? Should I go on? I live in Europe.
America does not mention “#2. maternal assistance” as an alternative to abortion because we don’t grant it.
Europe “Does not have a large private, profit- making abortion industry” because it does not have a large private, profit- making HEALTH CARE industry. And if you think abortion is big money in America – compared to the multi-billion dollar industries of hospitals, insurance, surgery, pharmaceuticals, etc. etc. – you should check your numbers.
On the whole, I think Europe gets health care much, much better than America. (High life expectancy, far lower cost, much greater access.) But to single out abortion is not just absurd, it’s in bad faith.
Had you championed national health care, sex education, access to birth control, etc. etc. your argument would at least appear less hypocritical.

Comment by professorplum

Sex education and birth control depend on the country, really. The Netherlands is about as liberal as it gets; Poland is not so liberal. For what it’s worth, the countries with the lowest teen pregnancy rates in Europe are those with the most liberal sex education policies and widest public distribution of birth control.

Comment by Alon Levy

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