Thursday, July 3, 2014

25 years ago: U.S. Supreme Court upholds Missouri law restricting abortion

On July 3, 1989, the United States Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold a Missouri law that restricted a woman’s right to have an abortion. The court majority, in the case of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, upheld a Missouri law prohibiting public employees from performing abortions unless the mother’s life was endangered; barring abortions in public buildings; and requiring medical tests on any fetus more than 20 weeks old in order to determine if it could live outside the womb.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing for the majority, said that any restriction on abortion should be judged by whether it "permissibly furthers the state’s interest in protecting potential human life." The reader will notice that Mr. Rehnquist actually weakens the pro-life case with his use of the term "potential human life" to describe a fetus rather than "human life," which is what a fetus actually is. "Justice" Harry Blackmun, author of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made up a woman’s "right" to an abortion, wrote in dissent, "I fear for the future...The signs are evident and very ominous, and a chill wind blows." The reader will notice that "Justice" Blackmun’s argument is emotional rather than legal.

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