- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

Both sides on the abortion issue expect a quick debate in Congress this year on prohibiting partial-birth abortion, and even pro-choice advocates predict a ban will be approved.
The Senate will begin debating the bill today. Republican aides they expect a few days of debate and a likely vote on Thursday. The House passed a ban last Congress but has not yet considered it this year.
"We fully expect that it will pass," said Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation. But she said her group is "firmly convinced it is unconstitutional" and will "immediately go into federal court" to challenge the new law.
"The hope is that the president will be able to sign it before the Easter recess," said Michael Schwartz, vice president for government relations at Concerned Women for America and supporter of the ban.
The bill, strongly backed by President Bush, would ban partial-birth abortion except when necessary to save the mother's life.
In partial-birth abortion also known as dilation and extraction the baby is partially delivered before its skull is pierced and its brain sucked out.
"I can't understand why anybody would be for a form of abortion that is not necessary … that involves the destruction of a fully formed baby," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said Friday.
The House and Senate has twice passed partial-birth abortion bans, which were vetoed by President Clinton. The House overrode both vetoes but the Senate did not.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said the Senate should focus on other issues right now and it is wrong to bring up the bill "at a time when we're about to go to war in Iraq … a time of increasing unemployment."
A Senate Democratic aide said Democrats may try to amend the bill with proposals on the economy or other topics to "point out that this administration is so out of step" with the concerns of Americans.
"A lot of people in the Senate are wondering whether this is the most pressing business we should be dealing with," another Democratic aide said.
But bill sponsor Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, said that the Senate wouldn't be considering the issue right now "if Tom Daschle would have kept his commitment to move the bill last year."
The Senate then controlled by Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat did not take up the bill last year.
"This is unfinished business," Mr. Santorum said.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life Committee, said, "Every poll that's ever been taken overwhelmingly shows the American people think that partial-birth abortion should have been banned seven years ago."
A Gallup poll in January found that 70 percent of Americans support such a ban, he noted.
The last time the Senate considered a partial-birth abortion ban was in 1999. Several Democrats, including Mr. Daschle, voted for it. Mr. Daschle plans to vote for the ban this week as well, his spokesman Jay Carson said.
"Assuming no one changes their position on it we should have more than 60 votes," Mr. Santorum said.
The Supreme Court in 2000 struck down a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortion, but Mr. Santorum said his bill provides a more precise definition of the procedure to address the justices' concerns that the Nebraska law also could have banned another common abortion procedure.
The Supreme Court also found the Nebraska ban unconstitutional because it failed to make exceptions when the procedure was deemed necessary to preserve not just the mother's life, but also her health.
Mr. Santorum's bill does not include a "health exception" but states that medical evidence presented in congressional hearings shows partial-birth abortion poses serious risks to women's health, is never medically needed and is outside the standards of medical care.
"The bill is still unconstitutional," Miss Saporta said, adding that it "would ban safe abortion procedures after 12 weeks and well before fetal viability, without providing a health exception" for women.
"The Supreme Court was very clear about how to draft a constitutional ban and this bill still has the same flaws," she said.

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