The US Supreme Court has begun listening to arguments concerning the partial-birth abortion ban law passed by Congress. Considering the controversial nature of the subject and the current makeup of the Court, this should be an interesting case.
According to Associated Press writer Mark Sherman, the justices had very pointed and graphic questions to ask of the two sides arguing the case. One such question, asked by Justice John Paul Stevens, is the title of this post.
The lines between the two sides have been clearly drawn. Those arguing for the law, including Solicitor General Paul Clement, say that this form of abortion simply goes too far. According to the AP story, 1.25 million abortions are performed each year, of which a few thousand are procedures doctors call "dilation and extraction" or "intact dilation and evacuation". Opponents call these abortions "partial birth" abortions because they are performed during the middle third of pregnancy and involve "partially extracting an intact fetus from the uterus, then cutting or crushing its skull."
Eve Gartner of Planned Parenthood is arguing against the law banning these abortions. Her side argues that this method is sometimes the safest for women. She is quoted by the AP as saying, "What Congress has done here is take away from women the option of what may be the safest procedure for her. This court has never recognized a state interest was sufficient to trump the women's interest in her health."
It seems to me that the sides boil down to the same basic abortion debate: the interest of the fetus versus the interest of the mother. The difference here, though, is the especially graphic nature of this method of abortion.