Major abortion battle headed for high court
The South Dakota legislature has approved a bill that would ban all abortions except to save the woman's life.
ABORTION opponents wasted little time in preparing a challenge to a Supreme Court more likely than any in past years to overturn the 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. A large question is how long it will take for the issue to travel from the floors of South Dakota's legislature to the high court's chambers. Abortion rights should turn from a legal issue to a political one as the 2008 presidential election nears.
President Bush gave no doubt in his 2004 re-election campaign that he would nominate opponents of abortion rights to the Supreme Court. Consequently, John Roberts has replaced the late John Rehnquist as chief justice and, more importantly, Samuel Alito has taken the seat of retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a supporter of abortion rights.
The South Dakota legislature last week approved a bill that would make a crime of all abortions except those deemed necessary to save the woman's life, the most extreme abortion ban imaginable. Rape or incest victims would have no right to abort their ill-conceived fetuses. Republican Gov. Mike Rounds was expected to sign the bill into law.
Planned Parenthood, which operates an abortion clinic in South Dakota, is poised to challenge it in court. The legislature is setting up a special account to receive donations to pay legal fees in its defense; lawmakers say an anonymous donor has offered $1 million.
In his Senate confirmation hearings, Roberts testified that he believed abortion rights have been "settled as a precedent" that was "entitled to respect." Alito was more forthright in a 1985 application for a job in the Justice Department, asserting that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."
Abortion opponents have been relegated for 33 years to focus on issues such as when a fetus gains protection of the Constitution and whether partial-birth abortions are essential to save a woman's life. Unfortunately, the core issue seems destined for battle.
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