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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    It’s reigning men

    On April 18, the Supreme Court restricted the rights of women to make decisions about their reproductive health. This case, Gonzales v. Carhart, upheld a law that made a specific abortion procedure illegal and ripped away at legal precedents that protected a woman’s right to end her pregnancy.

    Roe v. Wade, decided by the high court in 1973, found that women have a constitutionally-protected right to privacy over their reproductive health; Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in the U.S. until the sixth month of pregnancy, also known as the second trimester. This case established the legal precedent for Supreme Court decisions regarding abortion.

    Planned Parenthood v. Casey, decided in 1992, changed the precedent, allowing states to restrict abortion rights, as long as those restrictions did not place an “”undue burden”” upon women.

    The latest Supreme Court majority (with two new Bush appointees, Samuel Alito and John Roberts) gave the finger to that vital precedent. This Carhart decision means that specific second-trimester abortion procedures cannot be used, with no exceptions for the health of the mother.

    Kennedy’s opinion says that women are frivolous and unknowledgeable about their reproductive health.

    Although the decision’s language is confusing to medical professionals (probably because the statute it upheld was written by legislators), there are serious implications. Abortions that happen in the late second trimester are very rare, but mainly happen when serious fetal anomalies are present.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion says: “”Nearly all women carrying fetuses with the most serious central nervous system anomalies chose to abort their pregnancies. … The very purpose of a health exception is to protect women in exceptional cases.”” In other words, women with serious pregnancy complications are now potentially prohibited from dealing with an already-traumatic situation.

    This surely constitutes an undue burden.

    The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, decided the state has legitimate interest in the life of the woman and fetus. He writes, “”While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon … some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. … Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow. … The State has an interest in ensuring so grave a choice is well informed.””

    Kennedy’s paternalistic, patronizing opinion implies two things: One, that women who have abortions do not understand what an abortion is, and two, that women should not be allowed to make this decision because they will all become severely depressed when they realize they have made this uninformed choice. And Kennedy admits that these implications are based on “”no reliable data””! (Not to mention that all surgeries, including abortion, mandate the informed-consent process.)

    Kennedy’s opinion says that women are frivolous and unknowledgeable about their reproductive health. This is completely offensive to the intelligence of women. No one takes ending a pregnancy lightly, and the state does not have a legitimate interest in protecting women from their own reproductive health decisions. Now, women need protection from government policy that will not allow them to make their own choices.

    This serious overstepping of judicial power creates an extremely negative environment for pregnant women with health complications. Gonzales v. Carhart also permits legislators to intervene in the private health decisions previously made only between a woman and her doctor.

    Gonzales v. Carhart was decided by a Supreme Court comprised of eight men and one woman, and Ginsburg is only the second woman ever to sit on the court.

    When the court was at its most feminine, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Ginsburg sat on the bench. They had very different opinions about abortion. O’Connor was the swing vote in Casey that allowed states to restrict abortion unless it caused an undue burden.

    More women appointed to the Supreme Court would not necessarily change the court’s pro-life stance. However, at least Kennedy couldn’t argue that women are uninformed idiots, because more than one incredibly educated woman would be staring him in the face.

    Allison Dumka is a political science senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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