The Supreme Court has handed down what is being called one of the biggest setbacks for the abortion rights movement in years. On Wednesday, the court voted five to four to uphold a ban on a certain type of abortion done in the second trimester. This marks the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that a specific abortion procedure can be banned. It’s also the first time since Roe v. Wade that justices approved an abortion restriction that does not contain an exception for the health of the woman. Doctors can now be jailed for up to two years if they violate the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Both of President Bush’s nominees to the court — Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito — voted for the ban. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the court’s decision “alarming” and “irrational.” Ginsburg took the rare step of reading parts of her dissent from the bench. She said, “For the first time since Roe, the court blesses a prohibition with no exception protecting a woman’s health.” Writing in the majority, Justice Kennedy claimed the ban was in fact good for women because it protects them from undergoing a procedure that they might not fully understand and that they might later regret. Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority said the ruling was a direct assault on Roe v. Wade.
Eleanor Smeal: “This decision is an invitation to legislators both at the federal and state level to further restrict abortion, and the Supreme Court will let it happen.”
Anti-abortion groups hailed the decision.
Jay Sekulow, an attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice: “It’s going to be a huge momentum shift for the pro-life movement. The opinion is very, very significant.”
In Iraq, over 300 people died on Wednesday in one of the bloodiest days of the war. The deadliest incident took place in a food market in the Shiite-dominated Sadriya neighborhood of Baghdad. A car bomb exploded in the afternoon killing over 140 people. One shopkeeper said the area had been turned into a swimming pool of blood. The bombing killed many workers who were helping to rebuild the market, which was destroyed in another blast in February. That bombing killed 137 people. Earlier in the day a suicide car bomb attack on a police checkpoint in Sadr City killed 35 people. Another parked car bomb killed at least 11 people near a hospital in the Karrada district of Baghdad. The attack on the Sadriya market was the deadliest bombing in the nine weeks since President Bush sent thousands of more U.S. troops into Iraq to secure Baghdad.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates blamed al-Qaeda for Wednesday’s attacks and said military planners had anticipated such acts of violence. But Pentagon planners are privately expressing concern. One official told the McClatchy newspapers that another 100,000 troops are needed to properly protect Baghdad.
There has been a startling new development in the Virginia Tech school massacre. Last night NBC News announced that the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, had mailed the network a multimedia package of disturbing video statements, a written manifesto and photographs of him holding the guns he used to kill at least 30 of his classmates and teachers. NBC aired some of his video statements.
Cho Seung-Hui: “You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today. But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.”
NBC also aired a second video of Cho Seung-Hui.
Cho Seung-Hui: “Do you know what it feels like to have spit on your face and trash shoved down your throat? Do you know what it feels like to dig your own grave? Do you know what it feels like to have your throat slashed from ear to ear? Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive? Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and impaled upon on the cross and left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in our lives as you can? Because you can. You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats. Your gold necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs. Your vodka and cognac weren’t enough. All your debaucheries weren’t enough to feed your hedonistic needs.”
NBC reported that the package was postmarked just after 9 a.m. on Monday during the lull between the two sets of shootings.
The Virginia Tech police have revealed that Cho was institutionalized in 2005 after he was accused of stalking two women. The campus police intervened after the second woman filed a complaint and asked that Cho have no further contact with her. This is Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.
Wendell Flinchum: “Officers followed up the next morning and spoke with Cho concerning this matter. Later that day police received a call from an acquaintance of Cho’s who was concerned that Cho may be suicidal. Officers again met with Cho and asked him to speak to a counselor. He went voluntarily to the police department. Based on that interaction with the counselor, a temporary detention order was obtained, and Cho was taken to a mental health facility.”
Flinchum did not say how long he stayed at the hospital, but ABC News is reporting he was released the following day. A psychologist certified that Cho was “mentally ill,” but he concluded that Cho “does not present an imminent danger to himself or others.”
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is heading to Capitol Hill today to testify about his role in the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys. In an opening statement released in advance, Gonzales says he has “nothing to hide.” But Gonzales indicates he may not be able to provide definite answers on the extent of his role in the firings. Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee is considering offering immunity to one of Gonzales’ former top aides, Monica Goodling. Goodling is the former counsel to Gonzales who served as the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House. She has so far refused to testify about her role in the scandal. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee has rejected a demand from House Democrats to hand over emails related to the firings. Several top White House officials, including Karl Rove, used RNC email accounts apparently in an attempt to skirt laws dictating government accounts.
In news from Africa, a United Nations panel has accused the Sudanese government of violating a U.N. arms embargo by flying military aircraft, weapons and ammunition into Darfur. The report claims that Sudan is transporting the military aid in planes disguised to look like U.N. aircraft. The Sudanese government says the report is based on fabrications. On Wednesday, President Bush warned Sudan’s government it has one last chance to stop violence in Darfur or else the United States will impose sanctions and consider other punitive options.
President Bush: “I have spoken in the past about the need to end Sudan’s use of military aircraft to attack innocent civilians. We’re also looking at what steps the international community could take to deny Sudan’s government the ability to fly its military aircraft over Darfur. And if we do not begin to see signs of good faith and commitments, we will hear calls for even sterner measures. The situation doesn’t have to come to that.”
President Bush made the comments in a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
In Afghanistan, over 100 journalists are calling on the country’s attorney general to resign after police armed with AK-47s raided the Afghanistan’s largest TV network. Three journalists were detained during the raid. Several others were beaten and kicked by police officers. Security camera footage captured the raid on film. Journalists covering the incident were also detained and their tapes were seized. The attorney general ordered the raid after he claimed that the network had misquoted him.
Afghan Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai: “They really crossed the law. That’s the reality, unfortunately. It’s a small example for the journalists in Afghanistan. We have lots of violence. The enemy of freedom of expression is not just those who are against the government. Somehow our government is also against, because they are afraid from those reality which is media broadcasting.”
Back in the United States, the FBI has raided the home of Republican Congresman John Doolittle of California and his wife Julie. The couple has been closely tied to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Agents seized computers and documents. Congressman Doolittle said the raid targeted his wife’s consulting business. Abramoff hired Julie Doolittle’s firm to raise funds for a charity he founded.
In military news, U.S. Army medic Agustin Aguayo has been released from a military prison in Germany. He was jailed after he refused to return to Iraq. He has been in military custody for the past eight months.
And in Wisconsin, 40 student activists from the Campus Antiwar Network have taken part in an all-night sit-in at Senator Herb Kohl’s Madison office. The students called on Senator Kohl to cut off funding for the Iraq War, fully fund veterans’ healthcare, hand over Iraq to Iraqis and to ban depleted uranium. The sit-in took place after the student activists walked out of classes to protest the war.