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BURKE: Supreme Court health care ruling’s impact on women

Improved life prospects is unlikely result

- - Monday, June 25, 2012

The deadline for the Supreme Court's decision on Obamacare has nearly arrived. As the nation contemplates the impact of this historic case, the court's ruling upholding Pennsylvania's informed-consent and parental-consent requirements in the abortion case Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaches its 20th anniversary.

The rhetoric swirling around Planned Parenthood v. Casey would sound very familiar to those following the debates over Obamacare. Abortion advocates have not ceased inventing rights for women, such as access to federally funded contraception and unrestricted, unregulated and taxpayer-funded abortion. They allege that those who do not support their radical agenda are guilty of waging a "war on women."

In June 1992, abortion advocates argued that the decision itself was anti-woman. They claimed it would encourage unnecessary and mean-spirited legislation designed to denigrate women, insult their intelligence and endanger their health. This has not been the case.

Despite the disappointment of many pro-life Americans with the court's failure to overturn Roe v. Wade, a pro-woman "silver lining" has emerged from this controversial decision: Women considering abortion are better protected and more informed than they were before Casey.

Pro-life legislators have continually demonstrated deep respect for American women and genuine concern for their health and safety. Informed-consent and parental-consent requirements have helped women in a vulnerable situation protect themselves by providing the facts about abortion and access to parental protection. Young girls with older boyfriends now have better legislative safeguards from potential exploitation, and women have greater opportunities to learn about every resource at their disposal.

State legislators have passed measures ensuring that women are fully informed about abortion, its ever-growing list of physical and psychological complications, and positive alternatives to abortion. They also have enacted laws protecting minors by requiring parental involvement in their abortion decisions, mandating that abortion clinics meet medically appropriate health and safety standards and, more recently, providing women opportunities to view ultrasounds before abortions.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmatively recognized that states have "legitimate interests from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the health of women." The Casey decision helped spark the ongoing national debate taking place in legislative chambers, the media and the public square about the proper role and scope of abortion law and policy. Better educated about abortion and its consequences, more Americans - especially younger generations - are increasingly skeptical about abortion and, as a result, are widely supportive of laws designed to ameliorate abortion's well-documented negative impact on women and society.

Since Casey was decided, 29 states have enacted or updated their informed-consent statutes, 18 states have enacted parental involvement laws, 23 states have enacted or enhanced abortion clinic regulations, and 23 states have enacted ultrasound requirements. These are just a few examples of the protective laws embraced at the state and federal levels over the past two decades.

Recognizing that the abortion industry is more concerned with maintaining its profits than protecting the lives and health of women and girls, pro-life legislators have repeatedly acted on their behalf, relying on the principles enunciated in Casey to ensure that the resulting laws are more likely to survive abortion advocates' inevitable court challenges.

The Casey decision has given legislators the necessary tools to respond to outrages such as Kermit Gosnell's West Philadelphia "house of horrors" abortion clinic.

Last year, after investigators found "deplorable and unsanitary" conditions in Gosnell's clinic, including parts of aborted children stored in jars, padlocked emergency exits, and broken and inoperable emergency equipment, Pennsylvania legislators acted swiftly, passing a new law mandating that abortion clinics in the state meet the same exacting standards as other same-day surgical centers.

This new law is likely to survive any legal challenge because federal courts repeatedly have found, based in large part on the Supreme Court's reasoning in Casey, that such regulation and oversight is protective of women, medically appropriate and thus legally permissible.

It also has allowed legislators to ensure that women considering abortion learn that there are many risks inherent in both surgical and chemical abortions, including death, life-threatening hemorrhage, psychological problems such as suicidal ideation, and an increased risk of complications in future pregnancies.

Meanwhile, abortion advocates, contrary to their self-promoted label as "defenders of women's health," have placed their radical abortion-on-demand ideology and financial bottom lines above the needs of American women.

For example, in recent years, the abortion industry has fought to maintain and increase taxpayer funding of abortion, worked to block the growing influence of life-affirming pregnancy care centers - which offer women support and abortion alternatives - championed legislation allowing nonphysicians to perform surgical abortions, and developed less expensive methods of dispensing dangerous abortion-inducing drugs that directly contravene FDA-approved guidelines and have resulted in the preventable deaths of several women.

With Casey as a starting point, pro-life legislators seek to protect women from an increasingly scandal-ridden and profit-driven abortion industry. Those legislators have trusted women to make their own choices, armed with all the information possible. Those legislators don't trust the abortion industry - with good reason.

Denise M. Burke is vice president of legal affairs at Americans United for Life and senior editor of "Defending Life," an AUL publication that provides model pro-life legislation.