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ABORTION ISSUE WON’T VANISH AFTER RULING

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The Supreme Court's long-awaited decision on a Pennsylvania abortion case is unlikely to be the justices' final word on the issue.

Three more cases heading toward the high court will directly ask the justices to decide if abortion is a constitutional right.Utah, Louisiana and Guam all have sought to ban abortion, with limited exceptions.

"They go directly to what most people believe is the core of Roe vs. Wade - abortions for private, paying adult women in the first trimester," said Jane Larson, a Northwestern University law professor.

That goes much further than the restrictions enacted in Pennsylvania, including a 24-hour waiting period, spousal notification and stringent record-keeping by doctors.

The court is expected to rule Monday on the Pennsylvania case. It could decide the case without considering whether to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

But there's no question the court will eventually be asked to rule on that issue, said Herman Schwartz, a law professor at American University.

The Utah, Louisiana and Guam laws are not being enforced as legal challenges work through the federal courts.

Guam's law, considered the most restrictive of the statutes, would make it a felony to perform any abortion except to preserve a woman's life.

The law was overturned in April by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the Supreme Court had not overruled the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.

Michael McConnell, law professor at the University of Chicago, said the fact that Guam is a territory and not a state could figure into a ruling on its law. The Supreme Court could approve its abortion ban while leaving the question open for the 50 states, on the ground that Guam is not subject to the same constitutional standard, he said.

The high court could sidestep the Guam case by asking the 9th Circuit Court to reconsider its ruling in light of the Pennsylvania opinion, he said.

The Louisiana law would ban abortion except to save the mother's life or in promptly reported cases of rape or incest. It calls for prison sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to $100,000 for doctors who perform illegal abortions.

A federal judge declared the law unconstitutional in August, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the case in February.

Utah's law would ban abortion except in cases of rape or incest, grave danger to the mother's physical health or if the fetus had grave defects. In cases of rape or incest, the abortion must be performed no more than 20 weeks into the pregnancy.

A federal judge said he would delay ruling on a constitutional challenge to the Utah law until after the Supreme Court ruling on the Pennsylvania statute.

The Guam and Louisiana cases are likely to get to the Supreme Court first, McConnell said. But any of the three would ask a much more fundamental question than the Pennsylvania case, he said.

Even if one of the three cases led to Roe vs. Wade being overturned, Larson said, the abortion battle would be long from over.

"I think we're in for another generation of struggle over abortion," she said.