The U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door to a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 opinion that “discovered” in the U.S. Constitution a woman’s “right” to an abortion, according to pro-life interests who praised the court’s endorsement of a ban on partial-birth abortions.

In a 5-4 ruling today, the high court said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act signed into law in 2003 by President Bush does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

“The court today has begun to right a terrible wrong,” said Paul Schenck, executive director of the National Pro-life Action Center on Capitol Hill. “Partial-birth abortions, as testimony in the lower courts showed – and oral argument in the Supreme Court affirmed – is equivalent to infanticide. It includes the nearly full delivery and near-decapitation of the living child.

“In upholding the will of the people in this matter, the majority has laid the first blow to Roe v. Wade and its putrefying spawn,” he said.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, described the ruling as the “first legal crack in the crumbling Roe v. Wade foundation.”

He noted abortion rates have dropped every year since 1990, and the number of abortions fell 7 percent from 1996 to 2002. Fifteen years ago, there were 2,000 abortion businesses in the nation but only about 750 today, he said.

“We are grateful to God today that moral sense has prevailed at the court,” said Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, which represents 5,000 church leaders and 30,000 lay associates from a range of Christian denominations. “This has been a long time coming and shows great promise for the future. Make no mistake, this is the beginning of the end for Roe v. Wade.”

Several state legislatures are working on abortion prohibitions that eventually could result in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, brought on behalf of “Jane Roe,” Norma McCorvey, who now is an ardent opponent of abortion.

Along with the pro-life position now affirmed by the decision, political ramifications will result, said Newman.

Former President Clinton is a “big loser” – along with a grouping of liberal federal courts – in the decision to affirm a ban on partial-birth abortions, he said.

“Bill Clinton vetoed this law twice,” Newman told WND. “The federal courts have overturned it. If they’re wrong on this, what other major social issues [now pending] are they wrong on too?”

“If they are wrong on this, that means they are taking an unconstitutional stand. Being unconstitutional is un-American,” he said.

Opponents of partial birth abortion describe it as a barbaric procedure in which an unborn child is partly delivered, then killed by making an incision in the head and vacuuming out the brain before the delivery is completed.

After being signed into law in 2003, the measure immediately was attacked by the abortion industry, and two federal appeals courts, the 8th Circuit and the 9th Circuit, concluded it interfered with a woman’s right to abortion.

Defenders of the status quo said the ban should have been overturned simply because the court had decided in earlier decisions to grant abortion “rights” to women. In a bitter dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the conclusion isn’t faithful to her “principles of stare decisis,” the concept that the court’s earlier decisions should be followed explicitly.

“Stare decisis! Stare decisis! This is NOT stare decisis,” said Newman. “What this shows is that there’s been a RETURN to the Constitution. This is a return to what the framers of the Constitution meant. They never granted a right for a woman to take the life of her baby, let alone in such a gruesome procedure.”

“In Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s minority dissent, she correctly asserts, ‘This court has refused to consider past courts’ opinions [on this matter].’ LFF believes that it is a healthy development for the court to admit its own fallibility,” said a statement from the Louisiana Family Forum Action. “Supreme Court justices are not bound to the doctrine of ‘stare decisis,’ but by oath to the Constitution itself.”

Justice Clarence Thomas issued a concurring opinion that said exactly that.

“I write separately to reiterate my view that the Court’s abortion jurisprudence, including Casey and Roe v. Wade, … has no basis in the Constitution.”

The majority ruling concluded members of the abortion industry who objected to the ban “have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional,” according to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion.

The two newest decision-makers, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both were in the majority, and members of the liberal media immediately projected that “the outcome is likely to spur efforts at the state level to place more restrictions on abortions.”

Newman said the result indicates a tidal wave of change in the Supreme Court from earlier decisions, when pro-abortion justices held sway.

“Why [pro-abortion factions] are committing hare kare today is that they see a man with an intellect, Chief Justice Roberts, with a plan. He’s looking at things constitutionally, and he’s opening the door for prohibitions on abortion, not just restrictions,” he said.

Newman said that for years progress in the court has been hindered by ex-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s insistance that restrictions on abortion are an “undue burden” on a woman. Under that reasoning, even such issues as parental notification and a 24-hour waiting period were challenged.

“Strict constitutional attorneys and Justices Alito and Thomas and Roberts, they’re saying if we’re going to be governed by a Constitution, let’s see what it says. It never afforded a so-called right to stick an instrument in the back of an infant’s skull and remove [his] brains,” Newman said.

“This marks a new day. We can move toward prohibition,” Newman said.

He even blamed the shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech on Monday, when a student shot and killed 32 others before killing himself, at least partly on the “culture of death” that has been created in the United States by the permissive attitudes towards killing the unborn.

“If you don’t want it, kill it, [is the] attitude,” he said. “That fostered this Virginia Tech situation. It all stems from Roe v. Wade.”

Operation Rescue is one of the front-line organizations battling abortion in the U.S. today, going so far as to purchase an abortion clinic and turn the building into the organization’s national headquarters in Wichita, Kan.

Other pro-life leaders and groups also praised the decision.

“This is a monumental victory for the preservation of human life,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which litigates pro-life issues and had filed amicus briefs in both cases before the Supreme Court representing 80 members of Congress and more than 320,000 Americans.

“By rejecting the lawsuits challenging the national ban, the high court demonstrated that this gruesome procedure has no place in the medical community,” he said. “This decision represents an important shift in the ongoing battle to protect human life and represents a very significant pro-life victory in the abortion debate.”

The 2003 law signed by President Bush had been challenged by Leroy Carhart, a prominent late-term abortionist, as well as Planned Parenthood, the abortion industry’s largest single operator in the U.S., in separate cases, which were joined at the Supreme Court level.

“We are grateful to all who worked so hard to pass this law and to educate the public about this unspeakably violent procedure,” said Fr. Frank Pavone, of Priests for Life.

Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition, was equally pleased, noting more than 80 percent of the American public wanted the procedure banned. “With today’s Supreme Court decision, it is just a matter of time before the infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 will also be struck down by the court,” she said.

“Planned Parenthood and abortionists like George Tiller of Wichita must be weeping over this decision. They have made millions off this grisly procedure,” said Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition. “Unborn babies have won the right not to be slaughtered by having their brains sucked out of their heads in a partial-birth abortion.”

Joseph Scheidler, national director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, said abortion is “not a civilized solution to the problems that arise from an unplanned pregnancy.”

“It is not a reasonable option for the medical community to present to women,” he said. “Certainly in this age of advanced medical technology we can do better than to kill our unborn children and tell women it is their best choice.”

“Roe is no longer the dictator over the Supreme Court. This is a landmark ruling that slams the brakes on infanticide and the devaluing of human life. Partial Birth Abortion is a perverse practice that dresses up infanticide with a technicality,” added Rev. James Tonkowich, with the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

“The decision gives states a green light to pass this and other prohibitions on partial-birth abortion that are carefully drafted. Today’s decision gives us guidelines, and should encourage states to utilize what is left of the 2007 legislative session to pass more commons-sense pro-life laws,” said Clarke Forsythe, of Americans United for Life.

U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, who authored the 2003 legislation, said he’s glad to see the end to partial-birth abortions.

“When drafting this legislation we were confident that it would withstand constitutional scrutiny and today’s ruling confirms that belief,” he said.

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said, “Although America still allows the killing of innocent children for convenience, this decision will begin to restore the humanity of unborn children in the eyes of the law.”

“We thank God that the Supreme Court has affirmed the value of human life by banning the Nazi-esque barbarism that is partial-birth abortion. A majority of justices have recognized what most Americans have long known: there is no constitutional right to slay a healthy, nearly-born baby by stabbing it in the back of the head and vacuuming out its brains – all without even anesthetizing the child,” said James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family Action.

James Lynch, an affiliate attorney for Pacific Justice Institute, said Christians now “must once more put our shoulders to the wheel to protect our posterity by gaining for them the recognition they deserve – a person in the constitutional sense.”

Edward L. White III, trial counsel with the Thomas More Law Center, said, “I am glad the Supreme Court decided to support the culture of life and reject the culture of death that is spreading across this nation.”

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