- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2000

The House is expected to vote today to ban partial-birth abortions in the face of another veto as Republicans urge Vice President Al Gore and Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to change President Clinton's mind.

"The president has to deal with his conscience on the matter; we have to deal with ours," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. "We could not, in good conscience, not have this vote."

The Senate in October voted 63-34 to ban the procedure but fell two votes short of the required two-thirds of senators present to override Mr. Clinton's certain veto. Given that reality, some House members have questioned today's floor vote as symbolic.

But Mr. Armey disputed that argument yesterday, saying "there's a nation full of people that are appalled by this procedure, and Congress is committed to stopping it."

"I don't think it's at all symbolic," Mr. Armey said. "The Senate has made a clear mark on this bill. They want this horrible procedure stopped. And the will of the House is the same. The president, in my estimation, should sign it. This is clearly what I call in the category of issues of the heart."

The previous two Congresses passed similar bans on partial-birth abortions, in which an unborn child is partially delivered through the birth canal before its brain is suctioned and skull crushed.

Mr. Clinton vetoed both measures, saying the procedure is medically needed in some cases to ensure the mother's health.

The House voted both times to override the vetoes, but the Senate failed both times to get the necessary 67 votes, getting 58 in 1996 and 64 in September 1998.

In this election year, Republicans tried another approach yesterday, urging Mr. Gore and the first lady to use their powers of persuasion on the president.

"Today, I call on Al Gore and Hillary Clinton to abandon their allegiances to the radical left, listen to the hearts and voices of the American people, and support a ban on partial-birth abortion," said Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee. "If they really are as influential in the administration as they claim to be, I urge Al Gore and Hillary Clinton to walk down the hall and tell the president not to veto the ban for the third time of his presidency."

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee Inc., said Mr. Gore has been an "enthusiastic supporter of abortion rights" in the administration.

"I don't think there's any evidence that Al Gore is a moderating influence," Mr. Johnson said.

Democrats and centrist Republicans are expected to offer a bill sponsored by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, that would ban all partial-birth abortions unless the pregnancy endangers the health of the mother. But in a letter to colleagues last month, Mr. Hoyer acknowledged that includes "mental health."

"Indeed, mental health is considered a serious and adverse consequence to the mother's health," he wrote.

Because of that interpretation, Mr. Johnson said, the alternative bill "is no restriction at all."

Mr. Nicholson noted that Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York Democrat whose seat Mrs. Clinton is seeking, has likened partial-birth abortion to "infanticide."

Asked why Republican leaders are pressing the vote against the wishes of some centrists in the party, Mr. Armey replied, "Ninety percent of our conference wants this bill on the floor and wants to vote for it. You're not going to deny 90 percent of the conference the vote they want."

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