- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Pro-life groups and lawmakers are hopeful that, with control of the Senate shifting to Republicans, some key pro-life measures could become law next year, including a ban on partial-birth abortion.
"I think we have a chance of passing several pieces of important pieces of legislation that were just bottled up and stopped in the Senate under [Majority Leader Tom] Daschle's leadership," said Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Constitution subcommittee.
"We're hopeful," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.
Pro-choice groups, meanwhile, are bracing for what they say will be a concerted effort to roll back abortion rights.
"We expect that [anti-abortion] legislation will be passed and signed by the president," said Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation. She said between the legislation and conservative judges likely to be approved, "this election could have devastating consequences for women's reproductive freedom."
Top on the priority list for pro-life groups and lawmakers in the new Congress is enacting a ban on so-called "partial-birth abortion," a procedure that allows a partial delivery before the abortion is completed. The House passed such a ban in July, but the measure did not move in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
"I think we're now on the brink of actually banning it," Mr. Chabot said.
A Senate Republican leadership aide said enactment of such a ban "will be a priority for us" in the Senate, and Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican and key supporter of the ban, said the issue would likely come up early on in both chambers.
"I think we'll do it in the first six months of the new session," he said.
Michael Schwartz, vice president for government relations at Concerned Women for America, said he expects a ban on partial-birth abortion will be signed into law by the end of June 2003.
Other bills high on the agenda for action in both Houses include a measure that would make it a crime to take minors across state lines for abortions in circumvention of state laws that require parental involvement in abortion decisions and legislation that would create separate criminal penalties for harming or killing an unborn fetus in the commission of a crime on a pregnant woman. Both passed the House in the current Congress but died in the Senate.
Both Mr. Schwartz and Miss Saporta predicted these two would pass the House and the Senate next year.
Opponents of pro-life measures will likely try procedural maneuvers to block or defeat them, including the filibuster. "There's still a large number of members that we count on" to make such moves, said Susanne Martinez, vice president for public policy at the Planned Parenthood of America Federation.
Miss Saporta said her group does not "expect a filibuster of every piece of legislation or nominee."
Chances seem best for passage of the partial-birth abortion ban. Mr. Santorum seemed optimistic they could get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster by Democrats and pass the bill.
Mr. Schwartz said there are definitely 60 votes in the Senate to pass the bill, and Mr. Johnson said at least 62 senators have voted for it or committed publicly to vote for it in the past.
The Supreme Court in 2000 struck down as unconstitutional a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion, but Mr. Chabot said he believes the bill that passed the House this year "adequately addressed the court's concerns."
Pro-life advocates concede the fight will be tough. Family Research Council President Ken Connor said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, "used every procedural maneuver in the book" to thwart the pro-life agenda and that Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, "is going to have to show himself no less creative and no less resolute in getting these measures to the floor and getting them up for a vote" when he takes over as Senate majority leader.


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