- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

The pro-life movement, which helped pass several initiatives in the 108th Congress, thinks Republican gains in the Senate will aid the chances for bills to enforce state parental notification laws and to alert pregnant women about fetal pain.

“There is enough of a shift that we think bills such as these two … have a real chance,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.

The Senate has been the biggest blockade to pro-life bills. Republican pickups in this year’s election mean the chamber will have about three additional pro-life votes come January, Mr. Johnson said.

He said he hopes the defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, might make some pro-choice senators “who marched in lock step with the abortion lobby … less inclined to get out on thin ice” in blocking abortion restrictions.

Both sides of the abortion debate are anticipating a Supreme Court vacancy, particularly after deteriorating health has forced Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to miss several sessions.

Mr. Johnson said a battle over any Supreme Court nominee would take top priority for his group.

Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, also said a Supreme Court vacancy would be a “huge priority” for her side. She promised a “tremendous fight” over any nominee who would “turn back the clock” on abortion or other rights.

Until that fight erupts, however, the pro-life lobby will focus on other legislation.

One priority, introduced as a bill for the first time in May, would require doctors to tell women seeking abortions after 20 weeks about the capacity of the fetus to feel pain and offer the option of pain-reducing drugs.

The fetal-pain issue garnered interest during a federal court case in New York, in which the government was defending the federal ban on late-term partial-birth abortions. The judge in that case said the defense presented “credible evidence” that a fetus feels pain.

Mr. Johnson said there is growing support for the fetal pain bill in the House, and he hopes it can pass both chambers this term.

A bill returning to the scene next session would make it a federal crime to circumvent a state’s parental-notification law by transporting a pregnant teen across the state line for an abortion without parental involvement.

The measure passed the House three times but stalled in the Senate.

Miss Saporta said the fetal-pain bill is “part of their campaign to separate the fetus from the woman.”

Although the teen-transport bill likely will be introduced in both chambers, she said, passage would “put the most vulnerable teens at risk” by forcing those in dangerous family situations to involve their parents in abortion decisions and by making other family members criminals if they intervene.

Connie Mackey, vice president for government affairs for the Family Research Council, said her group also will push a ban on cloning human embryos for any purpose.

The legislation stalled last session, but House and Senate sponsors plan to bring back their bills next session. “We will be working hard” to pass them, Mrs. Mackey said.

She said her group will fight for more federal funding for adult stem-cell research, as a more promising alternative to embryonic stem-cell research. Pro-life lawmakers also are considering proposals to regulate abortion clinics and ban or limit RU-486, a home drug treatment that induces an abortion.

Miss Saporta said she also suspects conservative lawmakers will try to ban or limit RU-486 but predicted they will fail.

“It will be somewhat easier for anti-choice forces to pass further restrictions on abortion, but they won’t be successful in all of their initiatives,” she said.

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