Justices Consider Abortion, Right-to-Die Cases

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Issues surrounding the sanctity of life captured much of the U.S. Supreme Court’s attention last month. Justices heard oral arguments in two cases centering on the constitutionality of parental involvement in a minor girl’s abortion decision. One case concerned a Minnesota law requiring minors to inform both parents at least 48 hours prior to an abortion. It heard similar arguments on an Ohio law requiring notification of at least one parent 24 hours before an abortion. Both laws have a “judicial bypass” provision wherein a girl can get court authorization if she believes notifying her parents would not be in her interest.

The Justice Department urged the Court to use the Minnesota case as an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. “There is simply no credible foundation for the proposition that abortion is a fundamental right,” said an administration brief filed before the Court. “We continue to believe Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled.”

Most observers believe it is unlikely the justices will use either case to revisit Roe at this time. But National Right to Life Committee counsel James Bopp asserts that “Roe is on the table,” whether directly or indirectly.

The justices also heard arguments in the Court’s first “right-to-die” case, which considers whether the parents of a woman in a persistent vegetative state may authorize the removal of food and water tubes. Nancy Cruzan’s parents contend she would want the tubes removed. The state of Missouri argues that since there is no “reliable” evidence about Cruzan’s wishes, the state has a compelling interest to protect her life. Decisions in all three cases are expected sometime next spring or summer.

A fourth case, Turnock v. Ragsdale, deals with the constitutionality ...

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