The Supreme Test: Center for Reproductive Rights' Abortion Case to be Heard in Supreme Court's Fall Term

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NEW YORK - On Monday, October 2, the first full term of the newly constituted Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts and including the newest justice, Samuel Alito, will convene. During this term, the Court will rule on a case that will have far reaching implications on the direction of the Court and the judicial philosophy of the Roberts Court.

The issue, yet again, is abortion. On November 8, the Court will hear the Center for Reproductive Rights' case Gonzales v. Carhart. The case is a challenge to the Federal Abortion Ban, also known as the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," a law which fails to include an exception when a woman's health is at stake and would ban what doctors say are the safest abortions starting as early as 12 weeks in pregnancy. To date, every lower court has declared this abortion ban unconstitutional citing previous law established by the Supreme Court over the last thirty years.

"The question before the Court is, 'Is settled law, settled law?'" said Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Any ruling other than upholding the Court's own recent decision in Stenberg v. Carhart will shake the legal foundation of a woman's right to choose."

At issue is whether this Court will honor its own precedent that abortion restrictions must protect women's health. Stenberg v. Carhart, an almost identical case, was decided just six years ago on basically the same set of facts as the Federal Abortion Ban case. And the newly constituted Supreme Court agreed to hear the case covering virtually the same ground.

The facts have not changed since the Court's decision in 2000. The medical evidence opposing the law is only stronger. The only change is that a moderate, female Supreme Court Justice retired and President Bush replaced her with a conservative man.

Now the Center asks which direction will the Roberts Court take? What impact will conservative ideology have on the Court's ability to provide impartial, dispassionate judicial review?

The Supreme Court will also hear Planned Parenthood's challenge to the Federal Abortion Ban, Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood on November 8.

The nation should watch these cases closely because the outcome will shed considerable light on the judicial philosophy of the newly constituted Roberts Court and the direction of American jurisprudence for years to come.