Part 6: The Future Does Not Look Bright
by Gretchen Borchelt

Now that the Supreme Court term has ended, we’ve offered our take on what the term overall meant for women.  But what about Gonzales v. Carhart?  What are the implications of all the aspects of the decision I’ve blogged about?  I’m warning you – it doesn’t look good:

  • This ban is in effect in every state in the nation.  The ban was passed by the U.S. Congress and is federal law.  There is nothing a state can do to allow physicians to perform the procedure when women need it for health reasons in their own state.
  • Many vulnerable women won’t have access to the safest procedure for them.  The banned procedure is the safest for some women with serious health issues or whose fetuses have grave abnormalities.  Even an anti-choice activist admitted as much. The Court’s decision means these vulnerable women either won’t have access to the safest procedure, or must go to court for it.
  • Doctors will be chilled from providing abortions.  The language of the ban – which does not track medical practice – and the fact that it subjects doctors to jail and fines is likely to dissuade doctors from performing any second trimester abortions at all.
  • Anti-choice state legislatures are emboldened.  This decision serves as an open invitation to state legislatures to pass new restrictions on abortion.  And with the weakening of abortion law, it’s likely that many new restrictions will be upheld by courts.
  • Judicial nominations matter.  There is no doubt that the Court’s new justices appointed by President Bush – Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito – made all the difference in these cases. 
  • Roe v. Wade is in danger.  Experts believe that there are four votes on the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade: Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas.  Just one change in the other five Justices could mean the end of Roe v. Wade and federal constitutional protection of a woman’s right to abortion.

As should be obvious by this series of blogs on Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court dealt a serious blow to the future of women’s reproductive rights.  As things progress, I’ll continue to keep you updated on how the decision is playing out in state legislatures and courts across the country.

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