WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court’s conservative majority handed anti-abortion forces a major victory Wednesday in a decision that bans a controversial abortion procedure and set the stage for further restrictions.
For the first time since the court established a woman’s right to an abortion in 1973, the justices upheld a nationwide ban on a specific abortion method, labeled partial-birth abortion by its opponents.
The 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
The law is constitutional despite not containing an exception that would allow the procedure if needed to preserve a woman’s health, Kennedy said. “The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice,” he wrote in the majority opinion.Doctors who violate the law face up to two years in federal prison.
Kennedy’s opinion, joined by Bush’s two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, was a long-awaited resounding win that abortion opponents expected from the more conservative bench.
The administration defended the law as drawing a bright line between abortion and infanticide.
Reacting to the ruling, Bush said that it affirms the progress his administration has made to defend the “sanctity of life.”
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that prohibits the abhorrent procedure of partial birth abortion,” he said. “Today’s decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people’s representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America.”