- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2000

Infanticide by any other nameYou can judge a society by how it treats its weakest members, so a wise man said. There is no one more vulnerable than the unborn child, and last week the U.S. Supreme Court made these lives more precarious when it struck down Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortion. The ruling will affect bans on the abortion procedure currently existing in 30 states, and goes against the grain for a majority of Americans, even those who believe that abortion ought to be legal. It makes it legal to kill a human being who has been partially, but not fully, born, crushing its skull and sucking the brains out by vacuum. This is not a decision any civilized society can be proud of. Also in a defeat for abortion foes, the court ruled to uphold restrictions on protests outside abortion clinics. These are controversial decisions that will surely become a factor in the presidential election.

The Nebraska decision was as narrow as can be with five justices voting against the Nebraska ban and four wanting to uphold it. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor provided the swing vote, and seemed at least to hold out the prospect of a compromise that would one day allow the court to vote differently. "A ban on partial birth abortion that only proscribed the method of abortion and that included an exception to preserve the life and health of the mother would be constitutional in my view," she wrote.

The problem is of course, that it is the exception for "life and health of the mother" that has set President Clinton and Congress at odds for as long as the U.S. Congress has debated partial-birth abortion bans. In the view of many, "health" can be so broadly defined as to mean just about anything a doctor wants it to mean. Bowing to the pressure of feminist organizations, the president has vetoed legislation that failed to include this exception.

Though none of the presidential candidates have had the stomach yet to make abortion an issue in this election, the question of the so-called "dilation and extraction" procedure could become a plus for Republicans. With the increasingly advanced technology to save the lives of premature infants and perform medical procedures in the womb, the destruction of third-trimester fetuses seems especially wanton. Writing a ban that will be constitutionally upheld by the court is another matter, at least as far as this court is concerned.

Which brings us to the importance of this election for the composition of the Supreme Court which will affect not just how the court votes on abortion, but a host of other crucial issues. In a sense, Vice President Gore put his finger on it when he noted that "the next president will nominate at least three and probably four …justices to the Supreme Court. One extra vote on the wrong side … would change the outcome and a women's right to choose would be taken away." Which side is the wrong side, of course depends on your perspective. The outcome may be different the next time partial-birth abortion comes before the court.

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