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Case

Gonzales v. Carhart

Last Updated: 5/29/2020

Overview

What's at stake

  • The right to protect both babies and women from the harm of partial-birth abortion.

Summary

In a “partial-birth” abortion the abortionist partially delivers the unborn child out of the mother’s womb so that typically only the head remains inside the birth canal. The abortionist then inserts scissors into the base of its skull, vacuums out the contents, crushes the skull and delivers the now dead unborn child. Congress prohibited the brutal practice, but in 2000 the Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-4, ruled that the law was unconstitutional. In 2003, Congress again voted to prohibit this abortion method except where it was necessary to save a mother’s life, but Congress did not to provide a “health” exception, determining that this method was never necessary to protect a woman’s health and that abortionists would abuse such an exception. President Bush signed the Act into law.

Planned Parenthood and other abortionists immediately challenged the law in a series of suits filed across the country. They argued that banning partial-birth abortion without an exception for “health” reasons was unconstitutional. All the lower courts agreed, and they culminated in the Carhart case being heard at the U.S. Supreme Court.  In April 2007, the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act was constitutional, accepting Congress’s judgment that a health exception was unnecessary and noting that Congress has an interest in protecting women from harm that results from abortion procedures.

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom provided funding for comprehensive efforts to coordinate the amici defending the partial-birth abortion ban.  In addition Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies at Christian Legal Society filed a brief informing the Supreme Court that the law was constitutional.

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