Statement By Attorney General Eliot Spitzer On The Supreme Court Decisions On Reproductive Choice
In two very significant decisions, the Supreme Court today reaffirmed constitutional protection for women's health and reproductive rights. My office, on behalf of New York State and joined by several other states, submitted friend-of-the-Court briefs in each case in support of that position.
In Hill v. Colorado, the Supreme Court upheld a Colorado statute that makes it unlawful for any person within 100 feet of a health care facility's entrance to knowingly approach within 8 feet of another person, without that person's consent, in order to engage in protest, education or counseling of that person. My office had argued that such a statute protects the rights of both sides -- of persons seeking health care services, as well as of those speaking out against such services -- by providing specific guidance to protesters and law enforcement officials and allowing evenhanded application of the law. The Court's decision adopted this position.
In Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska statute that purported to criminalize "partial birth abortion." The Court held that the statute included within its sweep the most commonly-used second-trimester abortion method, and as a result, the statute posed an unconstitutional undue burden on women's ability to choose an abortion. Moreover, the Court held that because the disputed method may sometimes be safer than other abortion methods, the Nebraska statute lacked the requisite exception for preserving the health of the woman. My office had argued that the statute swept too broadly -- the position the Court adopted -- and moreover, that the statute neither protected women's health nor protected potential life -- the two recognized state interests that justify abortion restrictions.
By reaffirming women's right of reproductive choice and the paramount interest in preserving the health of women while exercising their choice, the Court today went far to uphold vital interests and constitutional rights. I am pleased that New York, joined by several other states, has taken the lead in this area.