[Media Note: Vanderbilt has a campus broadcast facility with a dedicated fiber optic line for live TV interviews and a radio ISDN line. A high resolution photo of Suzanna Sherry is available at www.vanderbilt.edu/news.]
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold a ban on a type of late-term abortion. The court found that the national Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, passed in 2003, does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
Vanderbilt University professor of law Suzanna Sherry said the Supreme Court had two main issues to deal with in this ruling. First, it had to determine whether the federal law can be distinguished from a Nebraska law that the court struck down in 2000. In holding the new law constitutional, the court found that unlike the Nebraska law, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act clearly explains what procedures are prohibited, so doctors know what they’re not allowed to do.
Sherry said the Supreme Court also held that because the act explained precisely what type of late-term abortion is prohibited, it allowed other second-trimester abortions to remain legal, again unlike the Nebraska law.
The second issue the Supreme Court considered was whether the law was unconstitutional because it didn’t have an exception allowing for the procedure to be performed in order to save the health of the woman.
Sherry said the Supreme Court held that there was no medical consensus on whether this type of late-term abortion is necessary, so Congress didn’t have to put in an exception. “But the court left the door open for future challenges,” said Sherry. “The Supreme Court says the ruling can be challenged if that specific type of abortion is determined to be the safest medical option for particular medical circumstances.”
Suzanna Sherry is considered one of the top scholars in the field of constitutional law and the Supreme Court. Along with more than 20 years of experience teaching law, Sherry is the author of more than 70 books and articles on constitutional law and the Supreme Court.
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