Supreme Court rejects case on abortion by dismemberment
June 28, 2019
The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will not hear a case regarding an Alabama law banning abortions by dismemberment, allowing a lower court ruling against the legislation to stand.
On June 28, the court issued a series of decisions announcing which cases it will hear in the next judicial year.
The rejected case, Harris v. West Alabama Women’s Center, concerned the Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act, a 2016 law that banned the abortion procedure “dilation and evacuation.” The procedure involves the dismemberment of the unborn child while it is still alive, and is only used for abortions in the second-trimester of pregnancy or later.
This case did not involve the law passed in Alabama earlier this year, which banned abortion altogether in the state of Alabama, except when needed to preserve the health of the mother.
The 2016 law was struck down by a lower court before it could ever go into effect, finding that the legislation placed an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to access abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision to not grant certiorari means that the lower court decision will stand.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing a concurring opinion to not hear the case, said that the Supreme Court did need to consider an abortion case and revisit its existing precedents on the “undue burden” test, which he described as “out of control,” but that the Alabama case did not present the right fact pattern for doing so.
“The notion that anything in the Constitution prevents States from passing laws prohibiting the dismembering of a living child is implausible,” wrote Thomas.
“But under the ‘undue burden’ standard adopted by this Court, a restriction on abortion—even one limited to prohibiting gruesome methods—is unconstitutional if ‘the ‘purpose or effect’ of the provision ‘is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.’”
While agreeing that the case was “too risky” for the Court to consider, he wrote that “this case serves as a stark reminder that our abortion jurisprudence has spiraled out of control.”
"None of these decisions is supported by the text of the Constitution. Although this case does not present the opportunity to address our demonstrably erroneous 'undue burden' standard, we cannot continue blinking the reality of what this court has wrought."
The national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List released a statment condemning the court's refusal to hear the case.
"Once again the Supreme Court has punted on abortion, this time refusing to take up Alabama’s humane law protecting unborn children from gruesome dismemberment abortions in which a child is torn apart, piece by piece," the statement said.
"Unborn children and mothers will continue to be victimized by the abortion industry while the Court does nothing."
Among those cases accepted by the court were DHS v. Regents of the University of California, Trump v. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and McAlleenan v. Vidal, which were consolidated into one case.
All three cases concern President Trump’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In 2017, Trump announced that the program would be ending, but federal courts have repeatedly blocked his decision and the program has remained.
DACA was created by an executive order issued by then-President Barack Obama. It provides work permits and protection from deportation for some people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
Trump has previously urged Congress agree a bipartisan compromise bill that would codify parts of DACA into law and strengthen border protections - including providing funding for a border wall, but no agreement has been reached.
The Supreme Court’s next judicial session begins in October.
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