For the past five years, every dawn has brought additional evidence of the fact that Planned Parenthood and its allies in the abortion industry cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the one thing they should know well – abortion. Just over five years ago, on April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court announced its opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart, holding that the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was constitutional. Since then, we have lived in a world where partial-birth abortions have been illegal in the United States under federal law (and now many state laws).
Yet the most valuable part of the Gonzales opinion may not be its upholding of the PBA Ban, but the fact that it called the abortion industry’s bluff. And history has now demonstrated that Planned Parenthood and its allies were holding a joker.
The Gonzales decision held that the federal ban on partial-birth abortions, except where necessary to save a woman’s life, was facially constitutional – meaning that generally speaking the ban was constitutionally sound. Opponents of the ban, including Planned Parenthood and their allies, had argued strenuously that the law was unconstitutional because it lacked a “health” exception. The Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s de facto research arm, claimed that roughly 2,200 (probably a low estimate as Ramesh Ponnoru explains at the link) occurred in a representative year prior to the ban – almost all of which were performed because they were necessary to protect a woman’s health.
Congress had omitted the exception because of evidence that such an exception was not necessary in practice and that such an exception would merely be used to circumvent the law entirely, with abortionists claiming falsely that virtually every partial-birth abortion was necessary for “health” reasons, and in Doe v. Bolton, the companion case to Roe v. Wade, the court had created a health exemption so wide that it covered just about everything including depression.
Congress’s judgment was buttressed by a statement from the American Medical Association that partial-birth abortion was “not medically indicated.” Indeed, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also agreed that partial-birth abortion was virtually never (if ever) necessary before then Solicitor General Kagan intervened to prevent what she called “a disaster” and proposed alternative language for ACOG in its written testimony to Congress.