Events early in 2006 have been good news about curbing abortion on demand law
By Tony Staley
Thus far, 2006 has been a good year in the battle to rein in the nation's abortion laws. So far, both the Supreme Court and the South Dakota Legislature have taken positive steps. Consider:
On Jan. 18, in a rare unanimous decision, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court's ruling that struck down New Hampshire's parental notification law for minors planning to have an abortion. The appeals court had rejected the law because it lacked an exception in cases where the teen's health is at imminent risk from continuing the pregnancy. The Supreme Court said that problem could be fixed without throwing out the whole statute.
On Feb. 21, the Supreme Court said it will consider the constitutionality of the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The Bush administration had appealed three U.S. appeals court rulings that the 2003 law is unconstitutional because it does not include an exception for the health of a pregnant woman. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortion was unconstitutional because it lacked a health exception.
On Feb. 24, the South Dakota House of Representatives passed, 50-18, a bill that would prohibit all intentional abortions except those to save a mother's life. The Senate had approved the bill Feb. 22, by a vote of 23-12. If Gov. Mike Round signs the Women's Health and Human Life Protection Act it would set up a direct challenge of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand throughout the U.S.
On Feb. 28, the Supreme Court, in an 8-0 decision, said racketeering laws cannot
be used against abortion clinic protesters. The ruling reversed a decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and upheld a previous Supreme Court ruling in the case.
On Jan. 31, Samuel Alito Jr. was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice in a 58-42 vote by the Senate. Justice Alito refused in his confirmation hearings to say how he would rule on abortion. But partisans on both sides seemed relatively certain that he would favor restricting abortion.
Because Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who often cast the key fifth vote - usually in favor of legalized abortion - Alito's views are crucial.
It's still not clear how Alito will rule on partial-birth abortion or an abortion law such as the one passed in South Dakota. But there is reason for hope with him on the court. Beyond that, there are many reasons to give thanks for a positive start to 2006.