Discussions on Abortion Ruling Center on Mother's Health The Supreme Court handed down a five to four decision in support of a regulation that bans so-called "partial birth" abortions. Many medical experts argue this decision prohibits a procedure that is sometimes necessary to protect the mother's health. Liane Hansen discusses the ruling's implications with Weekend Edition's legal commentator, Mimi Wesson.
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Discussions on Abortion Ruling Center on Mother's Health

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Discussions on Abortion Ruling Center on Mother's Health

Law

Discussions on Abortion Ruling Center on Mother's Health

Discussions on Abortion Ruling Center on Mother's Health

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The Supreme Court handed down a five to four decision in support of a regulation that bans so-called "partial birth" abortions. Many medical experts argue this decision prohibits a procedure that is sometimes necessary to protect the mother's health. Liane Hansen discusses the ruling's implications with Weekend Edition's legal commentator, Mimi Wesson.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Now at the center of the discussion after the Court's decision is the health of the mother. And here to discuss that issue is WEEKEND EDITION's legal commentator, Mimi Wesson. Welcome back.

MIMI WESSON: Thanks, Liane.

HANSEN: Many medical experts argue that this decision prohibits a procedure that is sometimes necessary to protect the mother's health. Remind us of some history. Roe v. Wade held that any prohibition against abortion had to have an exception for the mother's health, correct?

WESSON: And he also indicated that some deference had to be paid to the Court's moral and aesthetic findings that the procedure was gruesome and inhumane. That's a pretty striking contrast to Justice Blackman's opinion in Roe v. Wade, which insisted on deference to the medical and moral judgment of a woman and her doctor.

HANSEN: There's a procedural part of the Court's opinion that, although it's technical, may be important. Can you break it down for us?

WESSON: In practice, this restriction's likely to mean that the only acceptable plaintiff to challenge an abortion restriction in the future is a woman who's already pregnant or perhaps her doctor. So this technical limitation is likely to make these sorts of cases, challenging abortion restrictions, very difficult to bring and see through to a conclusion.

HANSEN: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote a strong dissent. She was joined by Justices David Souter, John Paul Stevens, and Stephen Breyer. What were Justice Ginsberg's main points?

WESSON: So to Justice Ginsberg, Justice Kennedy has used the professed concern for a woman's health to limit abortion instead of - as in the past - as a reason to make it available to women who choose it. She found the suggestion that women can't be trusted to make this choice for themselves patronizing at best and reflecting a view of women more associated with the 19th century than the 21st.

HANSEN: So what do you expect as a result of this decision?

WESSON: Some of this legislation will pass, some probably won't. Some laws that pass will begin working their ways through the courts again if qualified plaintiffs can be found under the new technical rules. I think this issue is going to be with us for a very long time.

HANSEN: Mimi Wesson is a professor at the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder. Thanks a lot, Mimi.

WESSON: A pleasure to be with you, Liane.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News.

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