The usually-restrained Rehnquist Court yesterday took bold positions on three of the most controversial issues in American public life. In cases dealing with abortion, homosexuality, and funding for church-affiliated schools, the US Supreme Court affirmed individual rights and lowered the wall separating church and state.
ABORTION The court struck down a Nebraska law banning so-called partial-birth abortion.
The high court's 5-to-4 ruling reaffirms that a woman has a constitutional right to abortion - and that states may not substantially impede it until late in a pregnancy. It raises doubts about partial-birth abortion bans in 29 states.
In a second case, the court said abortion protesters must stay 8 feet away from women entering family-planning clinics. The two rulings represent a major setback for abortion opponents.
GAYS IN THE BOY SCOUTS Private groups, such as the Boy Scouts, can use moral criteria of their own choosing to select their leaders - even if that means excluding homosexuals.
The court's decision - grounded in the principle of free association - deals a blow to gay rights groups and their fight to participate more fully in America's mainstream.
AID TO PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS Federal aid can be provided to parochial schools in the form of computers and other materials. The decision is seen as a lowering of the wall separating church and state, and could bode well for the school-voucher movement.
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