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US Supreme Court approves ban on “partial birth abortion”

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39192.397338.DB (Published 26 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:866
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne
  1. New York

    The nine member US Supreme Court ruled five to four last week to ban the “partial birth abortion” procedure in the United States. The court upheld a federal law banning the procedure that was passed by Congress in 2003. The law had been challenged in the courts for lacking an exception to protect women's health, not just their lives.

    Many commentators called the decision the most important ruling on abortion in 30 years.

    The day after the Supreme Court ruling, two Democrats, Senator Barbara Boxer of California and Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, introduced bills in the Senate and House of Representatives that would prevent government from interfering with a woman's right to bear a child or end a pregnancy. Nadler said, “We can no longer rely on the Supreme Court to protect a woman's constitutional right to choose.”

    This week the New England Journal of Medicine joined the debate. Jeffrey Drazen, the journal's editor in chief, said in an early release editorial that the Supreme Court “was practising medicine without a licence.”

    In another article, Michael Greene, director of obstetrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, wrote that US doctors lacked confidence in the judicial system and might avoid carrying …

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