Supreme Court justices Wednesday sharply questioned attorneys on both sides of the legal battle over what opponents call partial-birth abortions as the high court weighed whether to uphold Congress’ ban on the procedure.

In an intense morning of arguments, lawyers for the Bush administration and supporters of abortion rights gave starkly contrasting views: A law passed by Congress labels it a gruesome and inhumane practice. Supporters argue that such abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy sometimes are the safest for women.