Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Abortion and the US Supreme Court: Listening to the Middle

The United States Supreme Court continues to struggle with the issue of abortion.
In the case of Ayotte, Attorney General of New Hampshire vs Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, soon to be retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor writes (emphasis added):

"As the case comes to this Court, three propositions are established. First, States have the right to require parental involvement when a minor considers terminating her pregnancy. Second, a State may not restrict access to abortions that are “ ‘necessary, in appropriate medical judgment for preservation of the life or health of the mother.’Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 879 (plurality opinion). Third, New Hampshire has not taken issue with the case’s factual basis: In a very small percentage of cases, pregnant minors need immediate abortions to avert serious and often irreversible damage to their health. New Hampshire has conceded that, under this Court’s cases, it would be unconstitutional to apply the Act in a manner that subjects minors to significant health risks."

And so the court remanded the case to the lower court, holding that "If enforcing a statute that regulates access to abortion would be unconstitutional in medical emergencies, invalidating the statute entirely is not always necessary or justified, for lower courts may be able to render narrower declaratory and injunctive relief."

In a manner akin to Edward A. Langerak's essay Listening to the Middle, this decision is a reflection of the delicate balancing act that the US Supremes are trying to accomplish in listening to the middle. In a similar vein, more pro-life activists are going for gentle persuasion, foregoing politics for quiet talk.

Despite sometimes harsh rhetoric from both sides, it's important to remember that that is there is common ground and that the dialogue must continue for any progress to be made.

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