Let’s Talk About Right Wing Activist Courts: The Supreme Court Special Series


"Here we are coming down the stretch of an election campaign, and it's on the front page of your newspapers. Isn't that interesting," President George Bush replied when asked about Washington's most recent sex scandal.

By contrast, the Supreme Court had complete discretion in the scheduling of oral argument in two cases important to "pro-life" ideological extremists: the cases of Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood.

The cases are scheduled for hearing the day after the election. That, Mr. President, is interesting timing. Is this a little red state red meat, some right wing judicial activism to motivate the base, or mere coincidence? The scheduling of these cases make the Supreme Court's sharp right turn with Justices Roberts and Alito look blatantly political and activist.

RH Reality Check today begins a special series turning a spotlight on the issues that will be heard at the Supreme Court on November 8, explaining why these cases are political manipulations.

The "pro-life" lobby has manipulated the Congress and the Courts to create a faux legal framework for a private medical procedure that attempts to undermine the private health decisions of women. The mainstream media will report the cases using the language of the far right — "partial birth abortion" — language that is a creation of politics not medicine, but is treated by the media as a legitimate medical term, giving it credibility it should not have in the minds of voters.

Mainstream media will counter medical and scientific fact with ideology, belief and opinion from the far right in an effort to be "fair and balanced." Case in point, this USA Today story does a fine job of explaining the issue, interviews a very courageous mother, and clearly explains the medical implications. But the story provides "balance" by countering medical fact with a few people's personal beliefs and opinions.

People on the right who have principled beliefs on these issues should be respected, but their beliefs should not trump the facts that have been presented in amicus briefs by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, position statements clearly articulated by the American Medical Association and many other leading legal and medical associations. The very first sentence of the AMA statement reads "The term 'Partial birth abortion' is not medical terminology." Mainstream media needs to acknowledge they have adopted politicized language and are reporting beliefs in an attempt to balance facts. RH Reality Check is sponsoring a petition drive to mainstream media to raise their awareness of this problem. Please take a moment to sign it.

The problem is, even those with principled beliefs opposing a woman's right to make private health decisions, are caught up in the unprincipled and manipulative tactics of the lobbyists who craft their political and legal strategies.

In South Dakota we see "pro-life" lobbyists lie in commercials about exemptions in that state's abortion ban for victims of rape and incest. In California and Oregon we see the "pro-life" lobby's ability to manufacture ballot issues under the seemingly acceptable notion of "parental notification" and how such laws fail to recognize the realities of far too many girls.

Now, the far right's political manipulations are once again before the Supreme Court, endangering women's health, in essence rehearing cases settled just six short years ago.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights:

Just six years ago, the Center won a landmark Supreme Court victory, striking down an almost identical ban passed in Nebraska. In June 2000, in Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court found Nebraska's ban unconstitutional for two reasons:

  • It was so broadly worded that it would have prevented doctors from performing procedures used in more than 90 percent of abortions in the second trimester. Thus, the court ruled, the Nebraska ban imposed an undue burden on a woman's constitutionally-protected right to choose abortion.
  • Like the federal ban, it did not include a health exception to protect women. The majority opinion in Stenberg v. Carhart confirmed that when the state regulates abortion procedures, its paramount consideration must be a woman's health.

Only one thing has changed since then, the make-up of the Court. Sandra Day O'Connor is gone, and Samuel A. Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts will now determine what is best for women's health.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America states:

"This dangerous law should be struck down, sending a message to politicians to stop legislating medicine," said Eve Gartner, attorney. Every court that has examined the federal abortion ban has struck it down because, among other things, the ban does not protect women's health.

Social conservatives continue to erode not only the rights of women and families to make their own private health decisions, but the very fabric of our pluralistic democracy.

In this series RH Reality Check will feature:

  • expert analysis from each of the legal teams involved in the cases
  • relevant experience from a medical provider who understands the necessity of exemptions for the health of the mother
  • analysis of the terminology involved in these cases and how it has distracted efforts to promote more responsibility and truly reduce unintended pregnancies
  • commentary compiled from both sides
  • synthesis of mainstream media coverage

Please join us each day through Nov. 9 for this special series, and encourage others to, as we ask this simple question:

If you believe social conservatives and their governing majority have lied to you about anything, isn't it possible they are lying about the abortion ban too?

There are more responsible ways to deal with abortion through better prevention, access to reproductive health and pre-natal care, and comprehensive sexuality education. Unfortunately, those truths also escape social conservatives. Tomorrow we'll begin looking at the language used in the cases, and on Friday hear from the Center for Reproductive Rights who is sponsoring one of the cases, please join us.

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To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.