Three Utah congressmen joined 107 of their colleagues Thursday in filing two friend-of-the-court briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that allowed abortion on demand.
The briefs deal with Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services, a Missouri case where lower courts ruled that the Missouri Legislature improperly tried to regulate abortions and improperly defined life as beginning at conception.One of the briefs, joined in by Sen. Jake Garn and Rep. Howard C. Nielson, both R-Utah, and 54 others, argues that the court in Roe vs. Wade improperly "legislated from the bench," and that the power to regulate abortions should be left in the hands of Congress and state legislatures.
The other, joined in by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, and 53 others, argues that new scientific advances show life begins at conception, and fetuses should be protected as people. It also says the Supreme Court has reversed 190 other of its own rulings determined to be in error, and should follow that precedent now.
The brief joined in by Hansen said, "Recent advances in medical technology only served to confirm what was already well known in 1973: That the life of each individual human being begins at the time of conception."
Dawn Johnson, legal director for the National Abortion Rights Action League, said she was not surprised by the move, but was disappointed that it would deprive women of a basic and important right.
"Without that right, millions of American women will be forced to resort to back-alley abortionists where their lives and health will be threatened," she said.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, the nation's most prominent pro-life organization, said, "We applaud this intervention by the Bush administration in defense of unborn children. If Roe vs. Wade is overturned, our elected representatives will take steps to curb the abortion epidemic."
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said at a press conference announcing the briefs that such advances include ultrasound technology, which provides good pictures of the development and movement of the unborn.
The brief adds, "Roe also merits reversal because it erroneously removed the protections of the 14th Amendment, intended to embrace `all human beings,' from the unborn."
The other brief, joined in by Garn and Nielson, said the court in Roe "expanded federal judicial powers into areas that are within the rightful legislative domain of Congress and the states."
Rep. John LaFalce, D-N.Y. said at the press conference, "What the Supreme Court essentially decided was that Congress and the state legislatures were not fit to decide the issue of abortion, and decided it itself."
The brief said, "From its inception, Roe vs. Wade could not have been based on anything other than uniquely controversial moral judgments that the Constitution does not make. Making them calls for competence and democratic legitimacy that federal courts lack by design."