The fight over Pennsylvania's abortion law, one of the most restrictive in the nation, took another step toward a Supreme Court test Monday with arguments before a federal appeals court.
The state is appealing a lower court decision last August that overturned provisions of the law requiring a 24-hour waiting period and parental consent or spousal notification before women can obtain abortions.State officials contend the law breaks no new constitutional ground, but abortion rights advocates see it as the latest threat to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision by the Supreme Court that legalized abortion.
"We think the case is extremely significant because it is one of two cases in the pipeline (before the courts) and it would give the court a further opportunity to cut back on the rights of women," said Katherine Kolbert, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Reproductive Freedom Project.
The other case now in the courts is a Guam law that would prohibit abortions except when the mother's health or life is threatened. Kolbert, who will argue against the Pennsylvania law, said abortion rights advocates are also preparing to appeal a Utah ban on almost all abortions passed in January.
"Clearly, we are concerned that any abortion case that would reach the Supreme Court would give this more conservative court a chance to change or overrule Roe vs. Wade," Kolbert said.
But Robert Gensel, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's office, said commonwealth officials believe the law is constitutional according to several Supreme Court de-cisions after Roe vs. Wade, es-pecially the 1989 Webster decision that cleared the way for states to enact abortion restrictions.
"There has been some suggestion that this was just a stalking horse for overturning Roe vs. Wade, but we don't see that," Gensel said.
"It is not the attorney general's view that it's necessary to overturn Roe vs. Wade or otherwise achieve any major change in the Supreme Court's position to have this statute held constitutional," Gensel said.