The Supreme Courts conservative majority handed anti-abortion forces a major victory today in a decision that bans a controversial abortion procedure and sets the stage for further restrictions.
For the first time since the court established a womans right to an abortion in 1973, the justices upheld a nationwide ban on a specific abortion method, labeled partial-birth abortion by its opponents.
The 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a womans constitutional right to an abortion.
The law is constitutional despite not containing an exception that would allow the procedure if needed to preserve a womans health, Kennedy said. The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice, he wrote in the majority opinion.
Doctors who violate the law face up to two years in federal prison.
It was the first time the court banned a specific procedure in a case over hownot whetherto perform an abortion.
Abortion rights groups as well as the leading association of obstetricians and gynecologists have said the procedure sometimes is the safest for a woman. They also said that such a ruling could threaten most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, although Kennedy said alternate, more widely used procedures remain legal. -- by the Associated Press