In a 5-4 decision the justices ruled that the 2003 law does not violate a woman’s right to procure an abortion and, as such, is in line with the court’s precedent set by 1973 decision in Row v. Wade.
The opponents of the act "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
The court accepted arguments on behalf of the legislation which claimed that the procedure, which involves partially removing the child then crushing or cutting its skull, qualifies as infanticide and not as abortion.
According to the AP the cases constitutes the first time the court banned a specific procedure in a case over how - not whether - to perform an abortion.
The decision found President Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, siding with the majority. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia also were in the majority.
All five of the majority-voting Justices are Catholic.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, led the dissenters against the majority. She was joined in her descent by, Stephen G. Breyer, as well as David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens.
Ginsburg wrote that, "Today's decision is alarming,” claiming that the ruling, "refuses to take ... seriously" previous Supreme Court decisions on abortion.
However, in his Majority opinion Kennedy noted that “The Act allows a commonly used and generally accepted method, so it does not construct a substantial obstacle to the abortion right.”
The Justice also referenced medical testimony that the Partial-birth procedure is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother and said there was “medical disagreement whether the Act's prohibition would ever impose significant health risks on women.”
However Kennedy also noted that the Act can remain in place even, “when medical uncertainty persists...The Court has given state and federal legislatures wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty.”
Kennedy said the Court was assuming that the federal ban would be unconstitutional “if it subjected women to significant health risks.” He added, however, that “safe medical options are available.”
In 2000, the court with key differences in its membership struck down a state ban on partial-birth abortions. Writing for a 5-4 majority at that time, Justice Breyer said the law imposed an undue burden on a woman's right to make an abortion decision.
The Republican-controlled Congress responded in 2003 by passing a federal law that asserted the procedure is gruesome, inhumane and never medically necessary to preserve a woman's health. That statement was designed to overcome the health exception to restrictions that the court has demanded in abortion cases.
Pro-life leadership from around the country has already praised the court’s decision.
Fr. Frank Pavone, voiced the support of his group Priests for Life noting that “the United States Congress, and the vast majority of state legislators and American citizens, have made it clear over the last decade that this procedure - by which a child is killed in the very process of delivery - has no place in a civilized society.”
"We are grateful to all who worked so hard to pass this law and to educate the public about this unspeakably violent procedure," Fr. Pavone said.
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), who serves as Co-Chairman of the Bipartisan Pro- Life Caucus and is a strong advocate for the defense of life, also praised the decision, stating, “Finally, the High Court has found its voice and used its authority to defend helpless children and their vulnerable mothers from the violence of abortion.”
“Abortion methods either chemically poison a child to death or rip, tear, dismember, and vacuum the brain of the defenseless baby,” Smith boldly added. “ There is absolutely nothing whatsoever benign, compassionate, or just about a violent act that utterly destroys the life of a baby - it is a gross violation of human rights. Scrutiny must be brought to bear on the methods. The discussion of partial-birth abortion begins that process.”
“Women deserve non-violent, life-affirming, positive alternatives to abortion," Smith said, noting that, “Since 1973, almost 49 million babies have been slaughtered by what is euphemistically called choice.”
Dr. Paul Schenck, Executive Director of the National Pro-life Action Center on Capitol Hill, pointed out that with the ruling the Supreme Court has made only the first of several necessary rulings. “In its opinion, the Court today has begun to right a terrible wrong,” Schenck said. “Partial Birth abortions, as testimony in the lower courts showed - and oral argument in the Supreme Court confirmed, is equivalent to infanticide.”
The procedure, he said, “is an immoral, medically unnecessary act that should be condemned not only by this Court, but every court and legislature in the country. The Court's majority has upheld the rejection of these acts against innocent children at the very threshold of their births. Their decision is an encouraging demonstration of moral fortitude.”
Troy Newman, leader of Operation Rescue, called the decision, “another in a string of recent victories for the pro-life movement.”
"We are seeing a remarkable decrease of in the number of yearly abortions,” Newman said, “and an amazing increase in the number of closed abortion mills. In addition, polls are showing that America is becoming more and more pro-life, especially among the younger generations.”
“This is the first legal crack in the crumbling Roe v. Wade foundation, and is the first, necessary step toward banning the horrific practice of abortion in this nation,” he said.
.- In a stunning victory for life, the Supreme Court of the United States today upheld a 2003 law passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, which bans the procedure known as partial-birth abortion.