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New Attempts To Restrict Abortion

The Supreme Court also continues to be confronted with ongoing efforts to restrict abortion. In Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 117S. Ct. 1865 (1997), the Court upheld Montana's statute requiring that only licensed physicians perform abortions, ruling that physician-only requirements in general are constitutional. In another decision out of Montana, Lambert v. Wicklund, 520 U.S. 292, 117 S.Ct. 1169 (1997), the Court upheld a state statute requiring one-parent notification before a minor can have an abortion. The judicial bypass procedure in this case required a minor to show that parental notification was not in her best interest.

Perhaps the biggest controversy to erupt in the late 1990s involved the debate over what is termed "partial-birth" abortion. Anti-abortion activists succeeded in having legislation passed in twenty-nine states that bans physicians from performing what doctors call dilation and extraction. It is used most commonly in the second trimester, between twenty and twenty-four weeks of pregnancy, when a woman suffers from a life-threatening medical condition or disease. In Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 120 S.Ct. 2597 (2000), by a vote of 5–4, the Court struck down Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortion. The Court ruled the statute was invalid because it lacked any exception to protect a woman's health, noting that the state could promote but not endanger a woman's health when it regulates the methods of abortion. It also concluded that terms in the statute were unconstitutionally vague such that it would affect not only partial birth abortion but also other constitutionally protected second-trimester abortion methods.

The importance of this decision lies in the fact that in early 2003 the U.S. Congress passed a nationwide ban on partial-birth abortions similar to the Nebraska law. The Congress had passed this law before, only to have Bill Clinton veto it. President GEORGE W. BUSH went on record as saying he would sign the bill if it reached his desk. If he did so, the Supreme Court could be called upon to decide whether Stenberg applied.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: "But for" Rule to Additional InstructionsAbortion - History, Three Sides To The Abortion Debate, Roe V. Wade And Doe V. Bolton