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Women's Rights Leader Warns Roe v. Wade at Stake in Nebraska Abortion Ban
Washington, DC - Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and a leading advocate for women's right to abortion, today underscored how the decision in Stenberg v. Carhart, which is being argued in the U.S. Supreme Court today, will have profound implications for a woman's right to choose.
"Don't be fooled. This case is not about late-term abortion or any one procedure - it's about outlawing abortion," said Smeal.
At issue in today's Stenberg v. Carhart arguments - the first abortion case to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 8 years - is a vaguely worded law that could outlaw the most commonly performed abortion procedures. The ban, which offers no exceptions in cases where women's life and health may be at stake, would also impose a frightening criminal penalty on doctors of up to 20 years in prison for performing so-called "partial birth" abortions.
"The Nebraska law reveals just how punitive and extreme the opposition to abortion is," said Smeal. "Let there be no mistake: the flawed Nebraska ban is only one of many state bans deceptively designed to outlaw all abortions. Late term abortion is not at issue in this case, because the Court is looking only at the first half of pregnancy. The Supreme Court must finally rule these vague and overbroad bans - carefully and deceitfully crafted in an attempt to stop all abortions - unconstitutional."
The U.S. Eight Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously ruled the Nebraska ban to be unconstitutional. In their ruling, the Eighth Circuit found the ban to be unlawful because it did not protect women's health and because the vague wording would prohibit some of the safest and most common abortion procedures. Additionally, the courts in twenty states have already blocked prohibitions worded similarly to Nebraska's.
The United States Congress has passed similarly worded bans, which have twice been vetoed by President Clinton.
The sole plaintiff in this case, LeRoy H. Carhart, M.D., runs the Abortion and Contraceptive Clinic of Nebraska, located in the Omaha suburb of Bellevue. In 1991, arsonists set fire to the horse farm where his family lived, destroying their home, most of their 21 horses, and family pets. Following the fire, Dr. Carhart received a letter linking the horses' deaths to the "murder" of abortion. The apartment where the family subsequently moved was later vandalized.
The Feminist Majority Foundation, along with the NARAL Foundation, National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Women's Law Center, and People for the American Way Foundation filed one of the friend of the court briefs arguing that the Nebraska ban is invalid and unconstitutional. The brief argued that the Nebraska statute was "not narrowly designed to prevent a single type of abortion procedure but was rather formulated to create a broad barrier to a woman exercising her constitutional rights."
The Feminist Majority Foundation runs the oldest and largest national clinic access project to protect women's health care providers and clinics from anti-abortion violence.