- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2000

House Republicans are anticipating a major fight when they attempt to outlaw partial-birth abortion after returning from the Fourth of July recess.

"We'll have a full-scale battle," said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican.

Legislators are reviewing a Supreme Court decision last week that struck down a Nebraska law outlawing the procedure. When the federal measure comes to the House and Senate for a final vote this summer, it will contain precise language staffers say will pass constitutional muster.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said the Nebraska law was too vague and did not allow exceptions to protect the woman's health.

A bill banning the procedure passed the Senate last year and was approved by the House two months ago. A leadership aide said the legislation will be approved in the next few weeks.

Republican critics of the high court's decision say it underscores the need for a pro-life Republican in the White House.

"More than anything, this decision demonstrates the urgent need to put a president in the White House who will insist on appointing members of the judiciary who do not view the Constitution as a launch pad for contrived legal theories," said Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority whip.

Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas agreed, saying that the next occupant of the White House should choose judges who "will protect, not erode basic human rights.

"I can't imagine the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to protect infanticide," said Mr. Armey.

"It's time for the leftist justices to retire, get their gold watches, and head for the country club," said Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Republican Conference.

Meanwhile, conservative lawmakers and party leaders are urging Republicans to keep the pro-life plank in the platform when they gather in Philadelphia for the Republican convention at the end of July. The leaders warned that abandoning their position in light of the court ruling would jeopardize the presidential election this fall.

"The Republican Party's defense of human life is paramount to our success, not only in November, but for decades to come," Mr. Smith said.

"Partial-birth abortion is the most heinous kind of death known to mankind, and it is unbelievable this is being sanctioned by the Supreme Court," said Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican.

"Our party has always stood for life, and we should remain pro-life," Mr. Pitts said.

The pro-life plank the party agreed to during the 1996 presidential convention said an unborn child "has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." The platform also endorsed a constitutional amendment outlawing the procedure.

Rep. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said he will leave the Republican Party if it fails to include the pro-life plank.

"That's not a threat, that's a statement of fact. That's why we're Republican in the first place," Mr. Coburn said. "A Republican Party without the pro-life plank is not a party that will continue to exist."

A spokesman for Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, chairman of the platform committee, told the New York Times they have "clear direction from the [Republican National Committee] that the plank is going to stay the same."

Congress passed a ban on partial-birth abortion in 1996 and again in 1997, and both were vetoed by President Clinton. The House had the two-thirds majority votes necessary to override the measure each time, but the Senate did not.

Mr. Clinton said last week he would again veto any bill that restricts late-term abortions.

"A woman's right to choose must include the right to choose a medical procedure that will not endanger her life or health," Mr. Clinton said.

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