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Dawn Johnsen
IU School of Law

Last modified: Thursday, April 19, 2007

Media advisory:

Expert available to comment on Supreme Court federal abortion ban decision

April 19, 2007

EDITORS: A divided Supreme Court ruling upheld a federal law banning a type of abortion procedure the law called a "partial birth" procedure. The 5-4 ruling could have a variety of implications, especially due to the lack of a "health exemption" for a woman suffering from serious medical complications. It also raises the question of whether the John Roberts Court will one day revisit the Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade case.

Ban marks a significant and harmful shift on many levels. Indiana Law Professor Dawn Johnsen said today's Supreme Court opinion upholding the federal abortion ban marks a significant and harmful shift on many levels.

  • "By upholding a restriction without any exception to protect women's health, it undermines Roe's core principle that the government may not endanger women's health," Johnsen said.
  • "By upholding a restriction virtually identical to one the Court held unconstitutional seven years ago, it confirms the dramatic change on the Court made by replacing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor with Justice Samuel Alito -- and the tremendous importance of future Court appointments," she said.
  • "It, for the first time, upholds a nationwide ban, so that states and their medical professionals may not even choose to protect women's health by allowing the procedure when medically indicated," Johnsen said.
  • "It invites additional restrictions at the state and federal level that will make abortion unavailable for growing numbers of women," she said. "And, it adopts anti-abortion false claims and rhetoric that have no place in a Supreme Court opinion."

Johnsen, a professor of law and Ira C. Batman Faculty Fellow teaches courses in Constitutional Law, the First Amendment, and seminars in the Separation of Powers and Sexuality, Reproduction and the Constitution. She previously served as staff counsel fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union (1987-88); legal director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (1988-93); and Deputy Assistant Attorney General (1993-96) and Acting Assistant Attorney General (1997-98) for the Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice.

Johnsen can be reached at 812-856-4984 or