Herrera statement on U.S. Supreme Court's ruling
upholding Federal Abortion Ban
From the Office of City Attorney, Dennis Herrera
April 18, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO -- The United States Supreme Court today
upheld a controversial federal law passed in 2003 banning a procedure
that abortion rights foes called "partial birth abortion,"
a medically ambiguous term that had been declared unconstitutionally
vague by previous courts. The 5-4 ruling marks the first time
the high court has banned a specific medical procedure involving
abortion. Six federal courts had previously found that the law
was an unconstitutional restriction on a woman's right to an abortion.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, which was
joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito,
Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. A strong dissent by Justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling "tolerates, indeed applauds,
federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary
and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists." She was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer,
David Souter and John Paul Stevens.
In response, City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following
statement: "With today's decision, the court has struck a
blow against judicial independence and allowed politics to hijack
medical care. I am troubled by the majority opinion, which is
unnecessarily paternalistic and ignores both legal precedent and
the overwhelming medical evidence in this case. Nevertheless,
San Francisco will endeavor, as it always has, to provide the
best possible care to our patients consistent with the rule of
In January 2004, City Attorney Dennis Herrera successfully moved
to intervene in the case on behalf of the City and County of San
Francisco, arguing that under the federal abortion ban, local
public health services "would be compromised, potentially
endangering the health and lives of the City's neediest women."
San Francisco is the only municipality in the nation ever to challenge
an abortion restriction.
Principally in charge of the case in the City Attorney's Office
were Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese M. Stewart, Chief Deputy
for Neighborhood and Community Services Aleeta Van Runkle, and
Deputy City Attorney Kathleen S. Morris. The cases are Gonzales
v. Carhart, U.S. Supreme Court No. 05-380, and Gonzales v. Planned
Parenthood, U.S. Supreme Court No. 05-1382.