Now that the dust has finally settled on the Court’s ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart, Feminists are understandably upset and conservative groups are cautiously elated. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of opinions from around the blogosphere have come down with decidedly partisan terms. Feministing got mad at ‘anti-choicers’ while RedState called out ‘advocates of infanticide.’
Catholics have long been concerned about the metaphysical well-being of fetuses (babies?) that are killed before they have the opportunity to be baptized. (I cannot understate the hilarity of the previous link.) The Catholic church for some time has subtly suggested that these fetuses (babies?) are destined to stay in limbo for eternity. Catholics (I categorize all Catholic teaching here, but only out of necessity) believe that man is born in a state of sin and only “born again of water and the Holy Ghost” can provide for entrance into Jesus’s crib. Even though the concept of infants going to limbo as a result of original sin alone has long been considered backwards and an unofficial part of Catholic doctrine, certain factions of Catholicism still subscribe to that belief. The Catholic Führer has finally officially decided that these fetuses (babies?) go to either some version of heaven or hell. The recent decision doesn’t really clear up the debate, but even though it sounds a lot like an amusement park altering its height requirement for a roller coaster, this decision could have consequences for the Court (as well as the rest of us who have yet to be baptized.) For the first time in its history, the Court has five Catholic members and not surprisingly, they were the five that comprised the majority in the Carhart decision.
Unlike fetuses that are the victims of infanticide, the long-term implications of the Court’s ruling are still in limbo. If you look at the Carhart decision textually, it only rules that intact D&E can be legitimately banned. The Court reaffirms its ruling in Roe, holding that “before viability, a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy” and in Casey, holding that the state may not impose an ‘undue burden’ on the women before viability.
In short, the Court held that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is not ‘void for vagueness’ in describing the type of abortion procedure that it is banning. Even though Justice Kennedy spends considerable time trying to clarify why the law is clear, he holds that the law does not present ‘an undue burden from any overbreadth.’ For an indepth look at the case, you can check out what I said here.
Kennedy’s opinion is alarming for its perverse misogynistic outlook on abortion. Kennedy echoes the latest conservative talking points about how ‘abortion doctors’ must give women as much information as possible to make an informed decision without establishing an ‘undue burden.’ Kennedy fears that:
a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form.
The Court’s ruling in this decision could be construed to mean anything from simply reaffirming the outlawing of intact D&E to a justification for state to impose significant burdens upon a women who wants to seek an abortion. The Court has reaffirmed, and potentially strengthened, the ‘legiti=mate concern of the state’ to promote life by ensuring that women know exactly what they are getting into. More often than not, the idea of giving women all the information they can get is designed to scare her away from an abortion by giving her gory details about the worst things that can happen and the use of pejorative labels on every commonly used scientific procedure possible.
The most interesting analysis that I’ve read about the Carhart decision is the piece over at Eminent Domain about the importance of Thomas’s decision.