- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

Banning partial-birth abortions, a prescription-drug benefit and job creation are among the legislative priorities for Senate Republicans, who yesterday laid out their "Top Ten" goals for this congressional session.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, stressed the importance of a partial-birth abortion ban, which was introduced in the Senate yesterday.
"We're going to address it and we're going to address it head on," said Mr. Frist, who is a doctor. He called it a "a fringe procedure which offends the sensibilities of most, if not all, Americans."
Other top priorities outlined at the press conference yesterday included an energy bill, a reauthorization and retooling of the 1996 welfare-reform law, a bill designed to prevent and treat the AIDS virus worldwide, a measure to limit medical liability, a bill to provide vaccines and other biodefense measures to protect against a terrorist attack, and an education bill.
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said, "economic and national security has to be our top priority this year," but Republicans "also want to create new opportunities" and provide "for those who need."
"We are looking forward an action agenda to make sure that every American has opportunities, opportunities to compete and succeed," said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The Senate partial birth-abortion bill is sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. Earlier this week, House Republicans introduced an identical bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican.
The House passed Mr. Chabot's bill last session, but the Democrat-controlled Senate never acted on it.
"The Republicans bring up their extreme interpretation of late-term abortion all the time and members will vote their conscience on it," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
Either the partial birth-abortion ban or the AIDS bill is likely to be the first of the Republican priorities to move in the Senate, a Senate GOP leadership aide said.
The partial-birth abortion procedure, known in the medical community as dilation and extraction, allows partial delivery of the fetus before it is killed.
The Supreme Court in 2000 struck down as unconstitutional a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion. Republicans say they have crafted their legislation to address the Supreme Court's concerns. Opponents contend it is just as unconstitutional as the Nebraska law.
The Santorum/Chabot legislation, supporters say, would provide a more precise definition of the procedure, in order to address the Supreme Court's concern that the Nebraska law could have also banned another commonly performed type of abortion.
The Supreme Court also found the Nebraska ban unconstitutional because it failed to make exceptions when the procedure was deemed necessary to preserve the health of the mother.
The legislation would ban partial-birth abortion except when necessary to save the life of the mother, but it does not include an exception for the health of the mother.
Instead, it says that based upon medical evidence compiled during congressional hearings, partial-birth abortion poses serious risks to women's health, is never medically indicated, and is outside the standard of medical care.
Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, and James C. Greenwood, Pennsylvania Republican, introduced a competing proposal, which would ban late-term abortions, irrespective of procedure, but would allow them when needed to protect the life of the mother or to avert "serious, adverse consequences" to her health.
Before the Supreme Court decision, Congress twice passed a partial birth-abortion ban, but President Clinton vetoed both.

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