The following is from the April 19, 2007, edition of The San Francisco Chronicle.

Ruling on abortion could signal
move toward more limits

Bob Egelko
Chronicle Staff Writer

The Supreme Court's decision Wednesday to let Congress ban a specific abortion method, even if many doctors consider it the safest way to end a pregnancy, appears to signal a new willingness to limit women's access to a medical procedure that has polarized political debate for more than three decades.

The court's 5-4 decision Wednesday let stand a federal ban on removing a fetus intact from a woman's uterus and then destroying it. The ruling, made possible by the votes of two appointees of President Bush and bitterly criticized by the dissenting justices, indicated that scores of anti-abortion measures now before state legislatures may well get a friendly hearing if they come before the court.

The court majority did not endorse an outright ban on abortions, already enacted in Mississippi and Louisiana. But the ruling leaves the door open for a variety of lesser restrictions that states have imposed or are considering -- including waiting periods, licensing laws for doctors and clinics, mandatory ultrasound examinations for women who seek abortions, and a South Dakota law requiring pregnant women to be told they would be aborting a "whole, separate, unique living human being.'' . . .

Joseph Kobylka, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University and co-author of a 1992 book on the Supreme Court, said the ruling reflected Kennedy's pivotal role and suggested the Roberts court's strategy in abortion cases.

"If you allow states more latitude to legislate, as long as an abortion right exists in some circumstances, both sides get something and the court can't be accused of caving in to political considerations,'' he said.

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