What s the Difference?
A comment on the Supreme Court s Stenberg vs. Carhart decision
Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
On June 28, the Supreme Court again ruled on abortion, and again showed how
out of step its rulings on this subject are with the will of the American
people. In the case of Stenberg vs.Carhart, the Court ruled that a
Nebraska law banning partial birth abortion is unconstitutional. The partial
birth abortion procedure, in the words of the court, "involves removing the
fetus from the uterus through the cervix intact, …[after which] the
doctor pulls the fetal body through the cervix, collapses the skull, and
extracts the fetus through the cervix."
In a civilized society, this shouldn t happen to human offspring. In fact, it
shouldn’t happen to a dog.
The ruling of the Court was a 5-4 vote, a fact that abortion supporters say
makes them nervous. It should, not only because of the slim majority, but
because of the fact that this decision, by Justices who are not elected,
contradicts the will of the people expressed in over half of the state
legislatures. Moreover, the US House of Representatives and Senate have examined
and voted to ban this procedure by overwhelming majorities repeatedly in the
last five years. Opinion polls consistently reveal large majorities of the
public wanting to ban partial-birth abortion.
Abortion supporters say they don t want the government making medical
decisions. But that s not what this is about. Banning partial-birth abortion is
the government preventing the abuse of medicine. Shouldn t medical
procedures be governed by moral principles? This is not about politicians
practicing medicine, but about public servants protecting human lives.
The majority in Stenberg vs. Carhart fear that Nebraska s law is too
broad, not sufficiently distinguishing the partial-birth abortion procedure from
the "D and E" procedure, in which the child is dismembered in the process of
his/her removal from the mother s body.
Wow! God forbid that we should ban too much violence. This is like a
discussion about whether it should be legal to shoot someone in the heart but
not in the head, all the while ignoring the moral problem of shooting.
The Court also rules that Nebraska s ban is faulty because it does not allow
an exception for the "health of the mother."
First of all, nobody, the Court included, has ever identified a medical
condition for which partial-birth abortion is the only remedy. The fact of the
matter is that banning partial-birth abortion does not deprive any woman of safe
ways to handle complications of pregnancy, nor of what abortion supporters would
call a "safe abortion."
Moreover, the Court has held since 1973 that the "health exception" involves
emotional factors, family concerns, and the woman s age. The decision,
furthermore, about whether her health requires the abortion would be made by
none other than the abortionist himself - the same abortionist being paid for
the procedure. As Justice Thomas pointed out, this would be "an exception that
swallows the rule."
Abortion decisions impact more than the woman herself. They obviously kill a
child in a way that even the Court s majority admits is "gruesome." Such
practices also impact our whole society. This is perhaps best reflected by the
teen who, when convicted of shooting innocent people, defiantly replied, "Hey,
you kill them in the womb, I kill them on the street. What s the difference?"
What is the difference, indeed?