Court Gears Up To Hear Blockbuster Cases

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - The Supreme Court will hear two cases this week - on partial birth abortion and the Boy Scouts - that are among the most important in this year's packed calendar.

Tuesday, the Court will hear Stenberg v. Carhart, the first abortion case the Justices have agreed to hear in eight years. Stenberg involves a Nebraska law outlawing partial-birth abortion. The case could decide the fate of more than thirty state laws passed since 1995 outlawing the practice.

Abortion rights activists say the state laws are too vague and may threaten a woman's right to legal abortion.

Both sides in the debate have issued statements in advance of oral arguments.

"If the Supreme Court upholds the Nebraska ban, it will clear the way for similar laws that have been passed in 25 states against partial-birth abortion," said Carrie Gordon Earll, a bioethicist for Focus on the Family, in a statement Monday. "We trust that the Court will rule on the side of life for these nearly-born children."

"Antiabortion extremists are using abortion procedures bans as an underhanded strategy to stop abortion," National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland said in a statement. "If the Court upholds the constitutionality of abortion procedures bans, safe abortion procedures will be eliminated, regardless of trimester or health risks to women."

Ireland indicated that NOW plans a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court Tuesday before oral arguments.

On Wednesday, the Court will hear Dale v. Boy Scouts of America, a case brought by a New Jersey man, James Dale, who was removed from his volunteer post as the assistant scoutmaster of a Boy Scout troop because of his homosexuality.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Dale's favor, saying that the Scouts is an "open accommodation" liable to state anti-discrimination laws. The BSA says that requiring it to accept homosexuals would abridge the organization's First Amendment rights. will provide coverage of the oral arguments in both cases.