Ban on abortions by non-physicians upheld
Supreme Court rules on Montana lawJune 16, 1997
Web posted at: 2:02 p.m. EDT (1802 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Monday allowed Montana, and perhaps other states as well, to ban abortions performed by licensed physician assistants.
The justices voted 6-3 to reverse a federal appeals court ruling that had blocked enforcement of the law.
The nation's highest court said its landmark 1992 decision reaffirming women's constitutional right to abortion allowed states to require that all abortions be performed by doctors.
"In the course of upholding the physician-only requirement at issue in that case, we emphasized that our cases reflect the fact that the Constitution give the states broad latitude to decide that particular functions may be performed only by licensed professionals, even if an objective assessment might suggest that those same tasks could be performed by other," the court said in an unsigned ruling.
At issue was a 1995 Montana law specifically barring licensed physician assistants from performing abortions. For the previous 21 years, that practice had been allowed by the state -- provided the assistant worked under the direct supervision of a physician.
Montana's law applied to one person -- Susan Cahill, the only non-physician in the state who performs abortions. Cahill works under the supervision of Dr. James Armstrong in Kalispell, Montana.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter and Clarence Thomas voted to reject the challenge to the law, while Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer dissented.
In other court action Monday, the court:
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