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A Dark Day for Women's Health and Safety

In the last 24 hours, people all across America have expressed their outrage at a Supreme Court ruling that has brought about a seismic shift on reproductive freedom.
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It is dark day for women's health and safety.

Yesterday the highest court in the country voted 5-4 to uphold the federal abortion ban passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003. The ban criminalizes abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy that doctors say are often the safest and best to protect women's health.

Planned Parenthood and women's health care providers have long told the public that if President Bush were given a free hand to nominate ideological hardliners to the court, the U.S. Supreme Court would undermine protections for women's health and safety. Much to my dismay, that warning has come true.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that politicians now will be making medical decisions instead of women and doctors.

Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion upholding the ban, was joined by Bush-appointed Justices Alito and Roberts, along with ultraconservative stalwarts Justices Scalia and Thomas.

Justice Ruth Ginsburg, one of four dissenting justices, made clear that at least the one remaining woman on the court sees the writing on the wall. She wrote in her dissent:

"For the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception protecting a woman's health."

Our opponents can hardly contain themselves. The Houston Chronicle reports that South Dakota anti-abortion extremist Leslie Unruh was elated by the ruling: "I'm running and jumping in the air. I'm going to tell people, 'This should give you energy. Make sure you get to your capital and introduce some bills.'"

Make no mistake. Yesterday's ruling is devastating . The implications will truly hit home for women throughout the country.

It will hit home for Amanda, who told us how the procedure banned by yesterday's ruling helped ensure that she would be able to have children in the future when she experienced complications during pregnancy. It will hit home for Catherine, who told us how the procedure was necessary to prevent serious complications of hemorrhaging and infection that would have resulted from carrying her pregnancy to term. And it will hit home for the many other women who told us their stories -- women who were faced with perhaps the most difficult decision in their lives, but were thankful that it was a decision ultimately left to them and their doctors to make. As Robin, another woman who told us her story, said:

"What does that say about how much we value women's lives and their health in this society. We're willing to let a woman face death or serious health failures to promote an ideology ... I can only imagine the desperation that a woman would feel to find herself in that place and to not have any choice."

Unfortunately, it's a world all American women are now forced to imagine for themselves. In the last 24 hours, people all across America have expressed their outrage at a Supreme Court ruling that has brought about this seismic shift on reproductive freedom. The court told women that, with their health at risk during a pregnancy, deciding what to do is no longer up to them and their doctors. The Bush Supreme Court has let politicians come barging into that most personal of decisions.

Planned Parenthood and its allies are standing up for all American women -- standing up to protect women's health and safety; standing up to keep medical decisions out of politicians' hands; standing up to preserve a right that many of us took for granted for far too long.

Cecile Richards

President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

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