By Lauren Kelley /AlterNet / December 28, 2010
The 2007 Supreme Court decision that upheld a federal ban on late-term abortions has had far-reaching consequences, leading to an increase in state laws restricting abortion.
According to the Washington Post , the 5 to 4 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart “appeared to mark a significant change in the high court’s balancing of a woman’s right with the government’s interest” and “was a key moment in the emerging identity of the court headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.” Although the high court has not seen another abortion case since ’07, state legislators have gone crazy passing “an increasing number and variety of restrictions” on abortions, knowing that there’s a decent chance the conservative-majority court will uphold them.
One example of such restrictions can be seen in Nebraska, where Speaker Mike Flood recently won passage of a law banning abortions after 20 weeks. Most states consider 22 or 24 weeks the cut-off for a late-term abortion, but Flood was able to pass his legislation by citing bogus “fetal pain” studies.
The importance of Flood’s bill is likely to be felt far beyond Nebraska. Abortion opponents call it model legislation for other states and say it could provide a direct challenge to Supreme Court precedents that restrict government’s ability to prohibit abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb.
Flood may is able to impose significant new restrictions on thousands — possibly many thousands — of women seeking abortions, all because of the floodgates opened by Gonzales v. Carhart. And indeed, across the country this year state legislatures “considered and enacted some of the most extreme restrictions on abortion in recent memory, as well as passing laws creating dozens of other significant new hurdles,” according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
And the worst could be yet to come. “I believe the decision was like planting a bunch of seeds,” said Roger Evans, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood of America, “and we’re just starting to see the shoots popping out of the ground.”