In the early 1990s, reports surfaced about a particularly brutal and inhumane abortion method in which the child is removed from the womb feet-first and delivered except for the head. The abortionist thrusts scissors into the base of the child’s skull, inserts a catheter through the opening, and suctions out the child’s brain. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was introduced to stop this practice. The measure was approved by the 104th and 105th Congresses. In each instance the bills were vetoed by President Clinton. Action on a bill in the 106th Congress was stalled when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Stenberg v. Carhart opinion (June 28, 2000), declaring Nebraska’s partial-birth abortion ban law unconstitutional.
In response to this ruling, the federal bill was redrafted in the 107th Congress with a more precise definition of partial-birth abortion and with the incorporation of Congress’ findings that the procedure is never necessary to preserve the woman’s health. In the 108th Congress, this new bill was approved and signed into law.
Challenges were lodged in three federal courts. On April 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 was constitutional (Gonzalez v. Carhart, 05-380).