“Not since Bush v. Gore has the Supreme Court made such a political decision, or one that so completely distorts and disregards the U.S. Constitution,” National Organization for Women (NOW) President Kim Gandy declared, responding to the high court’s April 18 ruling upholding bans on a vaguely defined type of late-term abortion.

In its 5-4 decision, the court took what many see as the first step to restrict a woman’s ability to make a medical and personal decision.

A day later, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced the Freedom of Choice Act, which would reverse the erosion of women’s rights by federal and state governments and protect “a woman’s freedom to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy.” That constitutional right was upheld by the Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

The new decision, women’s organizations, clergy and civil rights groups say, marks the opening gun in the right-wing war to overturn Roe and return women to “barefoot and pregnant.”

The actual medical procedure in question is intact dilation and extraction, used in only 0.17 percent of all abortions in the U.S. in 2000, according to an Alan Guttmacher Institute survey. The term “partial-birth abortion” was coined by anti-reproductive-rights groups. It is not a medical term and does not identify any particular abortion procedure, the American Civil Liberties Union notes.

Intact dilation and evacuation is deemed appropriate by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to protect women’s health. It “is usually reserved for cases of maternal medical complications or fetal abnormalities,” University of Illinois professor of obstetrics and gynecology Suzanne Trupin wrote on emedicine.com last year. She noted then, “Since the time of Roe v. Wade, physicians, patients, and the U.S. Supreme Court have repeatedly reaffirmed that the determination about medical need, the choice of a procedure, and [fetal] viability is best left as a medical decision, not one for the legislature.”

In its April 18 ruling, the right-wing-dominated Supreme Court combined two cases where Planned Parenthood and others challenged state laws banning “partial birth abortion.” Seven years ago the court, which included two women, ruled such bans unconstitutional. Since then Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired, replaced by Bush appointee Samuel Alito.

In her statement, Gandy charged that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales pressed the Supreme Court to reconsider the 2000 ruling. Key to the court’s shift against reproductive rights were “Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito — both installed by Bush and a Republican-majority Senate,” she said.

Gandy called it “a major step in the campaign to outlaw all abortions, first by chipping away at and then fully overturning Roe v. Wade.”

Taking the unusual action of reading her dissent from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the ruling “alarming,” saying, “For the first time since Roe, the court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health. The law saves not one fetus from destruction for it targets only a method of performing abortion.” With this decision, Ginsburg said, “the court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice, even at the expense of their safety.” Justices Stephen Breyer, John Paul Stevens and David Souter joined the dissent.

The ruling signals “that politicians, not doctors” will make health care decisions for women,” responded Eve Gartner, Planned Parenthood deputy director of litigation and law.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, composed of religious leaders and physicians from many faiths, said in a statement that “concerns are being raised in religious communities about the ethics” of denying specific abortion services.

Hailing the introduction of the Freedom of Choice Act, the American Civil Liberties Union said the ruling “allows politics and ideology to override legal precedent and medical expertise.”

dwinebr696 @ aol.com