Rolling Back Protections for Women

Supreme Court Sanctions Law that Fails to Protect Women’s Health

Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003” deals a harsh blow to women’s health and safety.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the ‘Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003’ deals a harsh blow to women’s health and safety,” said Jessica Arons, Director of the Center for American Progress’s Women’s Health & Rights Program. “For the first time in 30 years, the Supreme Court has sanctioned a law that does not protect women’s health and prohibits doctors from exercising their best medical judgment.” 

The ban prohibits doctors from using a rare, but sometimes necessary, abortion procedure during the second trimester of pregnancy, when the fetus is not yet viable. Few women will ever need this procedure—over 90 percent of abortions in the United States occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Yet for the women who do need it, this law will force doctors to use other procedures that, though generally safe, present heightened risks of uterine perforations, hemorrhaging, infection, and infertility.

Even worse, some doctors may decline to provide any type of second trimester abortion care for fear of overzealous prosecution under a law that includes no medical definitions that distinguish between allowable and prohibited conduct. No matter how one feels about abortion, we should all be able to agree that doctors should be able to provide the best medical care possible to their patients without interference from the government. 

The implications of this decision extend far beyond the immediate procedure under debate. In this decision—made possible only by President Bush’s appointments of Justices Roberts and Alito—the Supreme Court has signaled that politicians may place a woman’s health and fertility at risk by imposing restrictions on abortion care that will do absolutely nothing to lower the abortion rate.  

Instead of devising ways to make abortion unsafe or harder to obtain, our government should turn its attention to helping women plan the timing and spacing of their children, prevent unintended pregnancies, preserve their fertility, and raise the children they have in loving and stable homes.

For more information on the Center for American Progress’ positions on this and related issues, see: 

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