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The partial-birth abortion procedure — used from the fifth month of pregnancy and later – involves pulling a living baby feet-first out of the womb, except for the head, then puncturing the skull and suctioning out the brain. The great majority of partial-birth abortions are performed on healthy babies for entirely non-medical reasons.
Throughout the 1990s, pro-lifers were busy educating the public on brutal partial-birth abortions. Many states, like Nebraska, were passing bans on partial-birth abortions during that era. Congress also had approved national bans on partial-birth abortion in 1996 and 1997. Unfortunately, President Bill Clinton vetoed both bans. This didn’t stop pro-lifers in their efforts to put an end to such a gruesome abortion procedure.
The Stenberg v. Carhart case decided in 2000 by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortions unconstitutional on the basis that it didn’t include a health exception.
In 2003, Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Signed by President George W. Bush, the ban was immediately challenged in federal court. Arriving at the U.S. Supreme Court for a second time, the partial-birth abortion ban was once again in the spotlight, garnering much attention due to the gruesome and inhumane procedure which it was attempting to ban. On April 18, 2007, the Court handed down its decision in the Gonzales v. Carhart case. Proving to be a huge win for the pro-life community/movement, the decision validated extending protection for unborn babies and women by upholding the ban on brutal partial-birth abortions while allowing the exclusion of a health exception. For the first time, we were able to ban an abortion procedure because of its gruesomeness, inhumanity, and lack of medical necessity.
All Things Possible: Changes in the Court
The only difference between the Court’s decisions in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) and Gonzales v. Carhart (2007) was the Court’s membership. Since 2000, President George W. Bush, with confirmation from the Senate, was able to appoint two life-affirming justices: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. Going against precedent, the Court reversed its ruling in the Stenberg decision in 2000, reminding America that the Court at any time can reverse a decision from cases past. This exercised ability illustrates the importance of electing presidents who, when making nominations and appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, are committed to choosing judicial nominees who will support life.
Although there were setbacks along the way, it was the pro-life community’s tenacity and commitment to the decade-long charge to ban brutal partial-birth abortions that enabled such a victory to occur. Coupled with the all-important changes in the Court’s membership, this involvement on the part of pro-lifers across the country and here in Minnesota allowed for assurance to be granted that no unborn child in the United States shall be subjected to such an inhumane and brutal procedure.
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