Brief Fact Summary.
Congress passed a law banning partial-birth abortions, and Carhart sued arguing that the law is unconstitutional.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban is constitutional.
As JUSTICE WHITE has put it, the trimester framework has left this Court to serve as the country's ex officio medical board with powers to approve or disapprove medical and operative practices and standards throughout the United States.View Full Point of Law
The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act prohibits a method of abortion which is usually used in the second trimester (15-26 weeks and before viability). Partial-birth abortion is defined as an abortion wherein the fetus is delivered partially through the vagina and then the pregnancy is ended.
There was a similar Nebraska law that was struck down in Stenberg v. Carhart, in part for being too vague.
Carhart, on behalf of doctors who performed these procedures, opposed the law and argued that it was unconstitutional.
Is the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act constitutional?
Yes, it is.
Justice Ginsburg (with Stevens, Souter, and Breyer)
This decision opposes prior Court abortion jurisprudence. It also blurs the lines with regards to viability, which is the chosen standard.
There’s no health exception, which is dangerous.
We should also be careful to remember the principle of stare decisis, respecting our past jurisprudence on this issue.
Justice Thomas (with Scalia)
This outcome is correct, but there is no constitutional right to abortion, regardless of prior cases.
This law defined partial-birth abortion more narrowly than the law at issue in Stenberg.
As held in other reproductive rights cases, the state as an interest in preserving fetal life.
There is medical dispute on whether the procedure could potentially be medically necessary. Congress is entitled to regulate an area where the medical community has not reached a consensus.
This law does not impose an undue burden on women seeking abortions because it only bans one type of procedure.
Thus, the law is constitutional.