SAN FRANCISCO HAD INTERVENED ALONGSIDE PLANNED PARENTHOOD IN CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE TO CONTROVERSIAL 2003 LAW
The United States Supreme Court today upheld a controversial federal law passed in 2003 banning a procedure that abortion rights foes called “partial birth abortion,” a medically ambiguous term that had been declared unconstitutionally vague by previous courts.
The 5-4 ruling marks the first time the high court has banned a specific medical procedure involving abortion. Six federal courts had previously found that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on a woman’s right to an abortion.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. A strong dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling “tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”
She was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.
In response, City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement: “With today’s decision, the court has struck a blow against judicial independence and allowed politics to hijack medical care. I am troubled by the majority opinion, which is unnecessarily paternalistic and ignores both legal precedent and the overwhelming medical evidence in this case. Nevertheless, San Francisco will endeavor, as it always has, to provide the best possible care to our patients consistent with the rule of law.”
In January 2004, City Attorney Dennis Herrera successfully moved to intervene in the case on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco, arguing that under the federal abortion ban, local public health services “would be compromised, potentially endangering the health and lives of the City’s neediest women.”
San Francisco is the only municipality in the nation ever to challenge an abortion restriction.
Principally in charge of the case in the City Attorney’s Office were Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese M. Stewart, Chief Deputy for Neighborhood and Community Services Aleeta Van Runkle, and Deputy City Attorney Kathleen S. Morris. The cases are Gonzales v. Carhart, U.S. Supreme Court No. 05-380, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, U.S. Supreme Court No. 05-1382.
See Related: HEALTH CARE