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Candidates split along party lines on ruling

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans support a ban on partial-birth abortion, but reaction by presidential candidates to the Supreme Court’s April 18 ruling nevertheless was split along party lines, with Republicans supporting the decision and Democrats opposing it.

On the GOP side, U.S. Sen. John McCain called the decision upholding a federal ban on the gruesome procedure a “victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life.” Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney labeled it “a step forward in protecting the weakest and most innocent among us.” Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is pro-choice, stayed away from the life issue but simply said the court “reached the correct conclusion.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he is “optimistic that we are turning the tide in favor of life.”

The Democratic candidates, though, played a significantly different tune. U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton said the ruling was a “dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman’s right to choose.” Her campaign website featured a prominent picture of the Supreme Court, with a headline reading, “Our Right to Choose.” U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said he “strongly disagree[d]” with the ruling and was “extremely concerned” with its implications. And former U.S. Sen. John Edwards said he “could not disagree more strongly” with it.

Polls consistently have showed between 60 and 70 percent of Americans favor such a ban. The Supreme Court’s decision was a landmark victory for the pro-life movement and marked the first time since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that the high court allowed a ban of a specific procedure to stand.

Partial-birth abortion involves delivering a baby feet-first, so that the head remains in the birth canal. The doctor then punctures the skull and suctions out the brain, allowing delivery of a dead baby. It is performed in the second and third trimesters, sometimes when the baby could survive outside the womb. A nurse who witnessed a partial-birth told Congress the “baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking” before going “completely limp” after the skull was collapsed.

Following are the statements by those candidates who either have announced they are running or have formed exploratory committees:

— Sam Brownback, Republican: “I’m delighted that the Supreme Court is moving forward to see the expression of life in the Constitution. I hope that some day we’ll see all life respected at all stages and protected in this land and around the world…. I am very pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortions. This ban was enacted to put an end to one of the most grotesque forms of abortion, and it is completely in line with the respect for life that is at the very heart of our Constitution. This is a great step forward for our nation’s citizens, born and unborn…. I applaud the Court for finding that the Constitution ‘expresses respect for the dignity of human life,’ and hope that this decision signals the Court’s willingness to revisit and reverse Roe v. Wade.”

— Rudy Giuliani, Republican: “The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion. I agree with it.”

— Mike Huckabee, Republican: “I am pleased that the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress in 2003 to protect mothers and children from the use of this gruesome procedure. As governor of Arkansas, I led the fight to enact a similar ban to protect the sanctity of unborn human life –- and I support a federal ban. With this landmark ruling, I am optimistic that we are turning the tide in favor of life. The Republican Congress was right to enact a federal law in 2003 banning partial birth abortion procedures. Today’s Supreme Court –- which upheld the 2003 law –- is a narrow victory for those who support the culture of life, beginning at conception. I applaud the Court’s action, which also sends a strong reminder that we must stay vigilant in our cause to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

— John McCain, Republican: “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life and integrity of the judiciary. The ruling ensures that an unacceptable and unjustifiable practice will not be carried out on our innocent children. It also clearly speaks to the importance of nominating and confirming strict constructionist judges who interpret the law as it is written, and do not usurp the authority of Congress and state legislatures. As we move forward, it is critically important that our party continues to stand on the side of life.”

— Mitt Romney, Republican: “Today, our nation’s highest court reaffirmed the value of life in America by upholding a ban on a practice that offends basic human decency. This decision represents a step forward in protecting the weakest and most innocent among us.”

— Tom Tancredo, Republican: “Today the Supreme Court put an end to this barbaric practice of infanticide. One can only hope this is the first step towards ending the tragedy of abortions.”

— Hillary Clinton, Democrat: “This decision marks a dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman’s right to choose and recognized the importance of women’s health. Today’s decision blatantly defies the Court’s recent decisio9n in 2000 striking down a state partial-birth abortion law because of its failure to provide an exception for the health of the mother. As the Supreme Court recognized in Roe v. Wade in 1973, this issue is complex and highly personal; the rights and lives of women must be taken into account. It is precisely this erosion of our constitutional rights that I warned against when I opposed the nominations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.”

— John Edwards, Democrat: “I could not disagree more strongly with today’s Supreme Court decision. The ban upheld by the Court is an ill-considered and sweeping prohibition that does not even take account for serious threats to the health of individual women. This hard right turn is a stark reminder of why Democrats cannot afford to lose the 2008 election. Too much is at stake — starting with, as the Court made all too clear today, a woman’s right to choose.”

— Barack Obama, Democrat: “I strongly disagree with today’s Supreme Court ruling, which dramatically departs from previous precedents safeguarding the health of pregnant women. As Justice Ginsburg emphasized in her dissenting opinion, this ruling signals an alarming willingness on the part of the conservative majority to disregard its prior rulings respecting a woman’s medical concerns and the very personal decisions between a doctor and patient. I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose, and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a matter of equal rights for women.

— Bill Richardson, Democrat: “Today the Supreme Court took a dangerous step backward in regard to Americans’ rights to personal choice and privacy. In doing so, the Court disregarded the opinion of experienced and respected medical professionals who oppose the ban because there are no exceptions protecting women’s health. While not unexpected, I believe this unfortunate decision is a clear signal that the Supreme Court is opening the door to further challenges to personal medical decisions between patients and doctors that should not involve the government.”

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust