Image: Leroy Carhart
Manuel Balce Ceneta  /  AP
Bellevue, Neb., physician Leroy Carhart speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after a hearing on a partial-birth abortion case Nov. 8, 2006.
updated 4/18/2007 3:15:33 PM ET 2007-04-18T19:15:33

Republican presidential candidates, who differ on abortion rights, were unanimous Wednesday in their praise for the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act .

Democratic candidates uniformly deplored the 5-4 ruling in which the court said the 2003 ban does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Abortion opponents had hoped for such an outcome from the more conservative court.

“I’m very happy about the decision given my position on abortion. Partial birth is one of the most odious aspects of abortion,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said while campaigning in South Carolina.

Video: Ruling, procedure explained McCain also said he felt some vindication from criticism he received for working with Democrats to prevent filibusters on Supreme Court nominees. “I think it’s a lesson of what bipartisanship can achieve if you’re willing to sit down with Democrats in a reasonable fashion,” he said.

In a separate statement issued by his campaign, McCain said, “It is critically important that our party continues to stand on the side of life.”

The admonition seemed aimed at former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, other leading contenders for the GOP nomination.

Giuliani favors abortion rights and has drawn criticism for supporting public funding of some abortions. But he says he would appoint justices very similar to Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, President Bush’s appointees. Both were part of the majority in Wednesday’s ruling.

Giuliani said in a statement that he approves of the high court’s action.

“The Supreme Court reached the correct conclusion in upholding the congressional ban on partial birth abortion. I agree with it,” he said.

‘Questions about the constitutionality’
Romney opposes abortion rights, although he supported the issue previously. He opposes a constitutional amendment banning abortion and says states should decide the issue.

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McCain’s record is not clear-cut on abortion, either: He said once in 1999 that he didn’t think Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision legalizing abortion, should be overturned but now he advocates its repeal.

Republican Sam Brownback, a presidential hopeful favored by abortion foes, said the ruling would result “in lives being saved.” He also voted for the ban in 2003.

He said the ruling shows the Roe vs. Wade decision was not so expansive that it prevented any limitation on abortion.

“There’s been questions about the constitutionality of Roe versus Wade for some time, from both the left and the right,” Brownback said in an interview.

‘Opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade’
Among Democrats running for president, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware voted for the ban, while Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut voted against it. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who was running for president at the time, missed the votes on the issue.

On Wednesday, Edwards said he “could not disagree more strongly” with the high court’s decision.

“The ban upheld by the Court is an ill-considered and sweeping prohibition that does not even take account for serious threats to the health of individual women,” Edwards said. “This hard right turn is a stark reminder of why Democrats cannot afford to lose the 2008 election.”

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said the decision is a dramatic departure from precedents safeguarding women’s health.

“I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose, and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a matter of equal rights for women,” Obama said.

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