As the Supreme Court deliberates the future of a constitutional right to abortion, prolife and prochoice activists are marshaling grassroots forces in efforts to capture national momentum on the issue. Both sides are already bracing for a Court decision, due this summer, that likely will do little to resolve the national argument over abortion but is sure to add fuel to election-year flames.
Last month the justices heard oral arguments in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the highly publicized case that could strike the most serious blow yet to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. At issue is a Pennsylvania law that places several restrictions on abortion, including a mandate that doctors tell women about the risks and alternatives to abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure is performed; a provision requiring parental consent before a minor’s abortion; a requirement that wives notify their husbands before an abortion; and a provision compelling abortion providers to file confidential reports to the state on each abortion performed.
During arguments before a packed courtroom, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Kathryn Kolbert urged the Court to reaffirm its Roe decision in full. “Never before has this Court bestowed and then taken away a fundamental right,” she said, adding that “once this Court removes [abortion’s] fundamental status, there is no logical stopping point” to the constitutional freedoms that will be imperiled.
Kolbert devoted the majority of her arguments not to the Pennsylvania law, but to the future of Roe itself. At one point, she drew a gentle rebuke from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who asked if the attorney planned to address any of the specific issues in the case.
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