- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

The House yesterday approved a recrafted bill that would ban partial-birth abortion, shifting the issue to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where its fate is not clear.
"The House has acted in plenty of time for the Senate to do the same," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. "No excuses, no delay. We now have a president who will sign this bill. It must not become another tombstone in the Senate's legislative graveyard."
The Supreme Court in 2000 struck down as unconstitutional a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion. Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican, crafted this year's bill to accommodate the Supreme Court's decision.
The bill was approved 274-151, with 65 Democrats breaking ranks to support the ban, while nine Republicans voted against it. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, voted "present." There were eight members who missed the vote four Democrats and four Republicans.
But Democrats charged the bill is just as unconstitutional as the Nebraska law and was only offered to give Republicans an election-year issue.
"We're here to tee up another round of 30-second ads for the November election," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat.
Republicans said the bill is constitutional, and it is essential that Congress ban the procedure.
"What is not arguable is that this procedure is inherently and morally wrong," said Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican.
The procedure, usually performed later in pregnancy, allows a partial delivery before the baby is killed. Mr. Chabot called it "barbaric" and "brutal."
In the Senate, Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, is working on similar legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, was noncommittal on the bill, saying yesterday he had not read it or come to any conclusion on it, but was told that the issue "may not be in keeping with court interpretation of the rights of a woman."
Before the Supreme Court's ruling, Congress twice passed legislation banning partial-birth abortion, only to have the bills vetoed by President Clinton. President Bush said he would sign a bill to ban the procedure.
The Chabot bill would provide a more precise definition of the procedure, in order to address the Supreme Court's concern that the Nebraska law also could have been interpreted to ban another commonly performed type of abortion.
The Supreme Court also found the Nebraska ban unconstitutional because it failed to make exceptions in cases where the procedure was deemed necessary to preserve the health of the mother.
The Chabot bill would ban partial-birth abortion except when necessary to save the life of the mother, but does not provide an exception for the health of the mother. Instead, it contains a lengthy "findings" section concluding that, based on the extensive congressional hearing record on the issue, "the facts indicate that a partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman, poses serious risks to a woman's health and lies outside the standard of medical care."
"A moral, medical and ethical consensus exists that partial-birth abortion is an unsafe and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican.
Democrats said without a health exception, the bill is unconstitutional.
"Whether you like it or not, you have to put it in the bill for the bill to be constitutional," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat.
House Democrats complained that they were prevented from offering amendments to the bill during floor debate, specifically an alternative proposal by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, that would ban late-term abortions, except when needed to protect the life of the mother or avert "serious adverse consequences" to her health.
Mr. Daschle supported the ban last time it came before the Senate, but said he did so, "because I felt the only way to resolve this matter was to resolve it in the courts. And it was resolved in the court the first time."

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