Quick thoughts on Partial Birth Abortion decision

As far as I can tell, all of the Church members in the Senate voted for the Partial Birth Abortion ban when it came before that legislative body in 2003. The vote tally is here.
Harry Reid gets a gold star for voting for the ban, as do Sens. Smith, Crapo, Bennett and Hatch. Am I missing any Senators who are LDS?

Of course, our unelected legislators (ie hyperactive judges) over-ruled this law, which led to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision. Just a reminder: partial-birth abortion, which involves crushing the skull and sucking out the brains of a late-term baby, was performed about 5,000 times a year. Let’s hope states begin putting a stop to this barbaric massacre of human life.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

19 thoughts on “Quick thoughts on Partial Birth Abortion decision

  1. Note the bizarre comment by Harry Reid regarding the verdict:

    “A lot of us wish that Alito weren’t there and O’Connor were there,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who opposed Alito’s nomination, said.


    What exactly is that supposed to mean? It’s assumed that if O’Conner was still on the bench that the verdict would have been 5 to 4 in the opposite direction and the law would have been found unconstitutional. So basically isn’t he saying that he wishes that a law that he himself voted for had been found unconstitutional?

  2. I was in my civil liberties class today, and this week’s topic happened to be abortion, so obviously we were discussing this, and I was really surprised at what the general take on this was by my classmates.

    I go to a pretty liberal university, and I expected this decision to be more reviled than it was. I don’t think any of my classmates that I spoke with today had a problem with this decision.

    I would say that most people that believe in a women’s right to have an abortion believe that it is a complicated issue, and that it isn’t totally black and white. Because partial birth abortions are such a small percentage of abortions overall, I think a lot of people are willing to concede this particular restriction, because, well… it is pretty horrible, and even if we don’t think that the fetus is the same thing as a child, we can’t quite say that it really is just like any other medical procedure.

  3. “Unelected Legislators (Hyperactive Judges)”

    I’m always amazed by this, and it shows just how much influence the nuts like the Eagle Forum have gained.

    I’m a raging liberal. I’m not pleased with the decision. I’m more in agreement with the dissenters. But, hey the law went through the system, it’s been going since 1995 through thick and thin of multiple administrations. There are methods of overturning this, the court can change it’s interpretation, set aside the decisions or a constitutional amendment can be attempted and the thing can make it’s round back through the courts. I have enough trust in the amount of time that it takes to make these kind of significant decisions in the public sphere that the decision matches the feelings of the majority of Americans. Since 1995 is more than enough time to raise a grassroots organization by hook or by crook, get enough support and hire enough shyster lawyers to present ones liberal/conservative amicus brief.
    The fact that conservatives are beginning to turn further this way is disturbing to me. I used to only hear this when I read White Supremecy/Anti-Immigrant or historical material from the 1960’s. Now it’s mainstream… It’s disconcerting because no matter how wildly I used to disagree with them the thing I could count on was their tooth and nail support for the checks and balances. So, in the end I’m not really angry or upset, just a bit disturbed at the tone conservatives have taken recently towards the judicial system.

  4. I applaud the Court’s decision. I consider myself a “liberal” on many issues, “conservative” on others. It is a mystery to me why the favoring of nontherapeutic abortion rights has become a cause embraced by many liberals and many fellow democrats. Liberalism of the type to which I subscribe includes protection of the defenseless against oppression. The values of the democratic party with which I agree include the same. The pro-life position, in my mind, fits in more closely with these values that the pro-choice position.

    I hope Roe v. Wade is overturned soon. Even many “pro-choice” “liberal” scholars would acknowledge that that decision was, in the words of Roe v. Wade dissenter Justice Byron White, a democrat, largely an exercise of “raw judicial power.” The decision is indefensible under the language of the Constitution.

    Of course, overruling Roe v. Wade would not prohibit nontherapeutic abortion throughout the United States. Many states, probably the states with the largest populations, will continue to permit nontherapeutic abortions. Many of those states will likely continue to pay for many of those abortions with government funds. But their decisions to do so will be made by democratically elected legislatures, which is where such difficult decisions, balancing countervailing rights, belong.

  5. Geoff,
    It’s hard to take anyone seriously when they complain about “unelected legislators (hyperactive judges),” especially while praising the judicial system in the same breath. Judges aren’t perfect, naturally, but I find that they get things right far more often that the legislative or executive branches because they aren’t beholden to a constituency. You make some interesting points in your post, but by toeing the line of, judges I disagree with are activist judges, which makes them bad, you undercut your creditibility.

  6. Meg, I am pleased to see that our younger generation is becoming more moderate on the abortion issue. It is not an easy issue at all and people who see it in black and white are not thinking it through very quickly.

  7. Couple of things.

    1. Reid’s position is really curios. He votes for the ban twice and then disagrees with the supreme court decision? Huh?

    2. Underscores that Kennedy is one of the most powerful men in the country. He can OK gay marriage, ban abortion, strike down or uphold whatever he wants. Its kind of scary to me to be honest

    3. Shows that the shift towards moderation on Abortion is for real.

    4. I think it points to the eventual repeal of Roe. This will actually be good for America. Let the state legislatures decide and let the issue drop from National politics

  8. This is not as big of a deal as some might make it out to be. It does not spell doom for Roe. It does not even ban late term (third trimester)abortion, just one type.

    Thank God for the Supreme Court! While I do not care much for this ruling, they are the only branch of government that has sought to protect liberty over the last 35 years. Of course, liberty protects gays and others who act differently that we do. Maybe liberty is bad.:)

  9. That was supposed to read “Thank God for the Supreme Court!” [It’s now corrected.–editor]

    If anything, this decision might make the right to lifers feel less beaten down upon. That might be good for public discourse.

  10. “partial-birth abortion … was performed about 5,000 times a year.”

    Source? That’s contrary to every reliable statistic I’ve seen. I know that the physician in the Missouri case, though having performed thousands of abortions over many years, had only done a few of these — ever.

    Re bbell “1. Reid’s position is really curios. He votes for the ban twice and then disagrees with the supreme court decision? Huh?”

    Kennedy’s opinion does more than sustain the federal ban. It opens the door to other types of abortion legislation. It is entirely rational to agree with the ban of this procedure and still not agree that the door should be as open as Kennedy’s decision might have accomplished.

  11. I actually think that Reid is playing to the pro-choice base.

    This is common for politicians to get prominent and change their behavior based on party activists. Other prominent Dems that used to be pro-life….

    Bill Clinton
    Al Gore
    Jesse Jackson

    Its hard to be a politician. Reid is under pressure on this issue and has caved in just like how Romney caved on guns,gays, and abortion

    Bush senior caved and went pro-life as well.

  12. JrL,

    please see this:


    Key sentence: “Ron Fitzsimmons, lobbyist for a trade association of abortionists, the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, recently publicly acknowledged that there are as many as 5000 per year in the United States.”

    This Wikipedia article says 2500-3000:

    So, let’s agree that there were thousands of these procedures per year. In my opinion, one legal procedure is too many.

    Sam B, #6, I’m sure you know the difference between judges who believe in judicial restraint and judges who believe it is their job to make up new laws (ie Roe v Wade). Many, many people believe judges have become filled with a sense of their own power, and this seems anti-constitutional to me. The Roberts court has actually been praised as being one of the least activist Supreme Courts ever. That is certainly a good thing, imho. And, btw, you have plenty of “credability” with me. šŸ™‚

  13. Bbell, I know I am in the minority on this, but I actually believe Romney was sincere in his conversion to the “pro-life” side. I went through a similar conversion, and his discussion of it mirrors my own. The more I thought about it, the more difficult it was to support abortion in all cases (although I do support abortion in some cases, however).

    Romney’s attempts to pander to the gun lobby and anti-immigrant groups are less believable, however.

  14. From “Abortion Incidence and Services In the United States in 2000” by Lawrence B. Finer and Stanley K. Henshaw of the Alan Guttmacher Institute:

    Abortions performed by dilation and extraction are quite rare: Eighteen providers reported 1,274 such abortions in 2000, and 16 providers reported 742 for the first half of 2001; and additional provider reported performing dilation and extraction abortions in both 2000 and 2001, but could not say how many. Assuming that the provision of dilation and extraction abortions by providers who responded to the question reflects the experience of nonrespondents of similar type and size, an estimated total of 31 providers performed the procedure 2,200 times in 2000, and 0.17% of all abortions performed in that year used this method. While these data confirm that the absolute number of abortions performed by dilation and extraction is very small, this figure should be interpreted cautiously, because projections based on such small numbers are subject to error.


  15. I pretty much have to agree with what Geoff B. said in his last post. Romney’s explanation of how he came to his current anti-abortion position has a ring of truth to it. And I don’t think he’s changed his views on gays as much as has been alleged (in my view, the nature of gay politics has changed more). But his pandering to the other segments of the religious right is making him look silly.

  16. Here is Sen Reid’s explanation of his comments on Alito vs. O’Connor. I think we have to recognize he is a partly pro-life legislator leading a pro-choice party, and that creates conundrums for him:

    By Robert Novak

    WASHINGTON — When the Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress in 2003, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told a press conference: “I would only say that this isn’t the only decision that a lot of us wish that [Justice Samuel] Alito weren’t there and [former Justice Sandra Day] O’Connor were there.” Does that mean Reid was repudiating his Senate vote for the bill restricting abortions? No, he told me Thursday, he was talking about other decisions by Alito.

    Reid, an effective legislator and canny politician, reflects a dilemma on abortion among Democrats who are flying high against dispirited Republicans. Delivering a fetus and then crushing its skull, a procedure called “partial birth abortion” by its critics, is massively unpopular. Its prohibition is favored 61 percent to 28 percent in the most recent poll (Fox News, March 2006). The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was pro-choice, called the practice “infanticide.” But the abortion rights lobby is adamant against any erosion of the Roe v. Wade decision.

    The leading Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (who voted against the ban in 2003), Sen. Barack Obama, former Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson — lashed out against last Wednesday’s ruling. The party’s tone was set on the House floor Thursday by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents the “Silk Stocking” district of New York including Manhattan’s Upper East Side: “We need to stand up to right-wing, conservative extremist efforts and protect the basic rights of women.”

    But 17 Democratic senators voted for the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act (as it passed, 64 to 34). Their ranks included Sen. Patrick Leahy, the current Judiciary Committee chairman, and Sen. Joseph Biden, a former chairman — both rated 100 percent for 2006 voting by NARAL Pro-Choice America. Biden, who is running for president, and Leahy seldom withhold their comments on anything. But they have been silent on the court’s abortion decision.

    Reid, another of the 17 Democrats, had a 65 percent pro-choice record in 2006. He tried to resolve his quandary last week by noting that the Supreme Court’s 5 to 4 lineup on partial birth abortion flipped when Alito replaced O’Connor last year (with Reid opposing his confirmation). Reid’s public preference for O’Connor over Alito Wednesday was widely interpreted as backtracking on his 2003 vote. The Roll Call newspaper said Reid “seemed to think the Supreme Court’s decision was unwise.”

    “Not at all,” Reid told me, when I asked him. Recalling his many votes against partial birth abortion, he indicated he supported the court’s abortion decision. “I just don’t like what Alito has done on other cases,” he said. What other cases? “I can’t recall,” Reid replied, but promised aides would let me know.

    They did so several hours later. Out of more than 50 decisions participated in by Alito, I was told Reid disagreed with four of them. They include Alito dissents, in 5 to 4 opinions, on mandating the federal government to consider global warming and the Hamdan case granting habeas corpus rights to U.S. detainees. Alito concurred in a 5 to 4 decision limiting federal regulation of wetlands and wrote the majority opinion in a 6 to 3 outcome (concurred in by usually liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) rejecting federal funding of an educational consultant under the disabilities act. But there is no record of Reid criticizing Alito’s court opinions before last Wednesday.

    Thomas Carper, the low-profile junior senator from Delaware, tries to walk down the middle of the road on abortion. He was rated 55 percent pro-choice in 2006, but was one of the 17 Democrats voting to ban partial birth abortion three years earlier.

    Sometimes disarming in his comments, he said last week after the court upheld the 2003 bill: “I think a number of people who voted for it thought that the court would ultimately strike it down.”

    Carper’s comment pointed to Democrats who are partial pro-lifers when it comes to partial birth abortion. The presence of Justice Alito on the court instead of Justice O’Connor undermines that posture. The party’s presidential candidate will be on record for partial birth abortion. How many Democrats will follow in 2008?

  17. Geoff,

    I think the test for “Reid flip flopping” is how pro-life was he voting prior to becoming the Senate Dem leader. I do not have the facts in front of me but I suspect that he has gradually been trending more and more pro-choice as he has become more prominent.

    This is what happens to politicians over time. As they get more powerful they kowtow to party activists. Reid seems more pro-choice now then ever.

    Yes, Politics is a tough business and compromises on principles are pretty common. What I see here are 2 LDS politicians making compromises on principles. Its not unethical or dishonest to change views or voting patterns.

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