- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

House Republicans yesterday renewed efforts to secure a ban on partial-birth abortion, introducing a revamped bill they say can be approved by Congress, signed into law this year and survive a constitutional challenge.
"We believe it will move quickly," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Constitution subcommittee. "This legislation is long overdue."
The Supreme Court in 2000 overturned a Nebraska partial-birth abortion ban, placing a significant obstacle in the path of congressional pro-lifers seeking a national ban.
But Mr. Chabot and others have crafted new legislation language they say will address the high court's concerns.
"We have every reason to believe the Supreme Court should uphold this," Mr. Chabot said of his bipartisan bill, which would ban partial-birth abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother.
The procedure in question is an abortion in which a late-term fetus is delivered partially before it is killed. Prior to the Supreme Court decision, Congress twice passed partial-birth abortion bans, only to have them vetoed by President Clinton.
President Bush has said he will sign a partial-birth abortion ban.
"We have a president who supports this and this is the year we have a chance," said Rep. Sue Myrick, North Carolina Republican.
The Nebraska ban was overturned partly because the Supreme Court thought it was too vague and could also have banned another, more common, type of abortion. To address these issues, Mr. Chabot's bill provides a new, more precise definition of the prohibited procedure.
The Supreme Court also found the Nebraska ban placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions by failing to make an exception for partial-birth abortions deemed necessary to preserve the health of the mother.
Mr. Chabot said the factual findings used by the Supreme Court in reaching this conclusion are "inconsistent with the overwhelming weight of authority" on the subject.
His bill does not provide an exception for the health of the mother. Instead, it contains a lengthy "findings" section that concludes 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."
Pro-choice groups said the new Chabot bill is clearly unconstitutional. "Here we go again. It's as if the [anti-abortion] leadership in the House is trying to wish away the U.S. Supreme Court's decision finding almost identical legislation unconstitutional," said Priscilla Smith, acting director of litigation for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice said Mr. Chabot is trying "to drum up political support for the upcoming election."
Though House Republicans were confident the Chabot bill would pass into law, the measure faces an uphill battle in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Even staffers of key conservative Republican senators said the issue is not on their radar screen right now.
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, has legislation in the House that would ban late-term abortions except when needed to preserve the life of the woman or avert serious health consequences to her. A Hoyer aide said they want to offer their bipartisan bill as an alternative to the Chabot bill, but noted that Republicans prevented them from doing so last time around.


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