The United States Supreme Court has rebuffed a challenge by a federal appellate court to reconsider its Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand. The High Court refused to hear an appeal of lower court rulings striking down an Arkansas law known as the Human Heartbeat Protection Act.
The law was enacted by the Arkansas Legislature in 2013 over the veto of the state’s pro-abortion governor at the time. The statute prohibited a physician from performing an abortion if a heartbeat can be detected in a preborn child whose gestation is 12 weeks or greater. Abortionists were required under the law to perform tests to determine “whether the fetus that a pregnant woman is carrying possesses a detectible hearbteat.”
The law would have had the effect of prohibiting virtually all abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy. A heartbeat can be detected in an unborn child as early as 22 days into a pregnancy.
The Arkansas law was a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s original Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 striking down state abortion restrictions, and its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992. That decision reaffirmed the right of a woman to choose to obtain an abortion prior to the point at which the unborn child is deemed viable, and thus able to survive outside the womb.
In the Casey decision, the Supreme Court declared that “a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability…Viability marks the earliest point at which the State’s interest in fetal life is constitutionally adequate to justify a legislative ban on nontherapeutic abortions.”
The Arkansas Heartbeat law was first struck down in March of 2014 by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who ruled that it “impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy.” In May of last year, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Webber’s decision, saying they were bound by precedent to do so.
However, in its ruling, the 8th Circuit judges took the highly unusual stance of questioning the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence. “Medical and technological advances along with mankind’s ever increasing knowledge of prenatal life since the Court decided Roe v. Wade and Casey make application of Casey’s viability standard more difficult…” the opinion states.
“Because a viability standard necessarily calls for a case-by-case determination and changes over time based on medical advancements, legislatures are better suited to make the necessary factual judgements in this area…To substitute its own preference to that of the legislature is not the proper role of a court,” the opinion concludes.
Two months later, in July of last year, the same three 8th Circuit judges once again rebuked the Supreme Court for its constitutionally unsupported decisions on abortion. The appellate panel affirmed another decision striking down a Heartbeat Bill in North Dakota similar to that in Arkansas, saying “United States Supreme Court precedent does not permit us to reach a contrary result.”
The three appellate judges then proceeded to excoriate the Supreme Court’s murky rationale in abortion cases. “Although controlling Supreme Court precedent dictates the outcome in this case, good reasons exist for the Court to reevaluate its jurisprudence…The Court’s viability standard has proven unsatisfactory because it gives too little consideration to the ‘substantial state interest in potential life throughout pregnancy,'” the 8th Circuit judges wrote.
“The Court has tied a state’s interest in unborn children to developments in obstetrics, not to development in the unborn…By taking [these decisions] away from the States the Court has also removed the states’ ability to account for advances in medical and scientific technology that have greatly expanded our knowledge of prenatal life, including that a baby develops sensitivity to external stimuli and to pain much earlier than was believed [when Roe was decided],” the appellate panel further wrote.
“Roe’s assumption that the decision to abort a baby will be made in close consultation with a woman’s private physician is called into question by declarations from women who have had abortions,” the judges further wrote. “These declarations state…that women may not be given information about the abortion procedure or its possible complications, and that the abortion clinics may function ‘like a mill’…These declarations also show abortions may cause adverse consequences for the woman’s health and well-being.”
It is notable that the Supreme Court chose to ignore the knowledgeable and instructive challenge of the 8th Circuit Judges without any comment whatsoever. They let stand the lower court rulings striking down the Arkansas Heartbeat law. In so doing, they leave the United States with the most liberal abortion laws in the world. The American holocaust of the unborn will continue unabated.
The posture of the Supreme Court is not only at odds with medical science, but with the overwhelming opinion of the American public. The Marist Company recently conducted a survey on the abortion issue. It found that 81% of Americans believe abortion should only be legal in the first three months of a pregnancy, or should only be allowed to save the life of the mother, or in instances of rape or incest. Only 19% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal during the first six months of pregnancy, or throughout the entire pregnancy, which are the alternative state of affairs in states throughout the country.
We applaud the judicial integrity of Judges Lavenski Smith, Bobby Shepherd, and Duane Benton, who wrote the appellate opinions in these cases. Benton is a former Missouri Supreme Court justice. It is most regrettable that the majority of justices on the Supreme Court do not share their respect for the inalienable right to life.