The Supreme Court upholds a federal ban on a specific abortion procedure.

The Supreme Court upholds a federal ban on a specific abortion procedure.

The Supreme Court upholds a federal ban on a specific abortion procedure.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 19 2007 5:59 AM

The Court's First Time

Everybody leads with yesterday's Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress in 2003. The 5-4 vote marked the first time the court has upheld a ban on a specific abortion procedure. It was also the first time an abortion law was upheld that did not include an exception for a pregnant woman's health, although it does allow the procedure to save her life. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the majority and said Congress has the right "to show its profound respect for the life within the woman." Seven years ago, the court struck down a similar Nebraska law with a 5-4 vote, in which Justice Sandra Day O'Connor sided with the majority. This time around, her replacement, Justice Samuel Alito, voted to uphold the ban.

The New York Timesnotes up high that the decision means doctors who perform the banned procedure could face "criminal prosecution, fines, and up to two years in prison." USA Todaymakes clear "the decision is unlikely to reduce abortions." That's because the abortion method that was banned, which involves partly delivering the fetus, is not the only way to perform a late-term abortion. But, as the Los Angeles Timesnotes in the second sentence, the real significance is that the "decision clears the way for states to pass new laws designed to discourage women from having abortions." The Washington Postquotes the president of the Christian Coalition of America predicting, "It is just a matter of time before the infamous Roe v. Wade … will also be struck down by the court." The Wall Street Journal notes that some see the decision as the first step "in chipping away at the landmark 1973 decision rather than attacking it head on," a strategy Alito proposed while he was an aide to Ronald Reagan.

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the decision was a clear attempt to remove "a right declared again and again by this court." Ginsburg also took aim at Kennedy's insistence that the ban is good for women because it would prevent them from regretting their decision to have a procedure they might not fully understand. Instead of giving women more information, "the court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice," Ginsburg wrote. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick characterizes the decision as "a strange reworking of Taming of the Shrew, with Kennedy playing an all-knowing Baptista to a nation of fickle Biancas."  

Everybody fronts the latest in the Virginia Tech massacre, which took an even more chilling turn yesterday when NBC News received a package from the gunman containing videos, photographs, and writings. The package was sent from Blacksburg at 9:01 a.m. Monday, which means there could be an answer to what Cho Seung-Hui did in between the first and second round of shootings. If more proof was needed that Cho was mentally disturbed, the package provided it, as he ranted, often nonsensically, against the rich and compared himself to the Columbine killers and Jesus. Everybody notes it appears that Cho began working on the package at least six days before the shootings. Everybody fronts the photograph that shows Cho aiming two handguns at the camera.

Meanwhile, another day brought even more evidence that Cho's mental-health problems were not a secret to many on campus. After two female students complained that Cho was bothering them, authorities questioned him and tried to have him committed to a psychiatric hospital. A judge even said Cho "presents an imminent danger to self or others" and sent him to a hospital for evaluation, but a doctor determined he didn't pose a real threat. Despite this past, nothing was done when one of Cho's professors expressed concern, and he was also legally allowed to buy the guns he used Monday.

The NYT fronts a piece on how universities have few options when trying to deal with students who are mentally ill. Inside, the LAT says schools take different approaches to dealing with students who might have mental-health problems and some make a concerted effort to monitor them closely.

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The Post fronts a great piece by David Maraniss that joins facts and testimonies of the last few days into a comprehensive narrative of Monday's events.

Everybody fronts the five car bombs that exploded in and around Baghdad yesterday that targeted mostly Shiite neighborhoods and killed almost 200 people. It was the deadliest day in Baghdad since the beginning of the new security plan earlier this year. Before the bombings, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said his government would take over security for all of Iraq by the end of the year.

The WP goes inside with word that congressional Democrats are moving toward making any deadlines in their war spending bill "advisory," rather than mandatory. Democrats, who risk losing support from the more liberal lawmakers, want to portray themselves as flexible and put President Bush on the spot.

As Attorney General Alberto Gonzales heads to Congress today to answer questions about the fired U.S. attorneys, the Post fronts a look at the premium Bush places on loyalty. Many say that under a different president, the attorney general would have already been fired. The NYT's op-ed page asked four legal experts, including fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, to list three questions they would ask Gonzales. Slate has a list of the "big and awkward questions he's likely to be asked" and will fill in the answers as they become available.

They don't call 'em CrackBerrys for nothing. … The LAT fronts, and everyone mentions, the panic that ensued among many of the 5 million BlackBerry users when they couldn't access their e-mail Tuesday night. It was the first nationwide outage in more than two years. While some used the time to give their thumbs a few hours of well-deserved rest, others realized just how addicted they have become to the little devices as they desperately tried to fix the problem.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.