- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

A ban on partial-birth abortion is well on its way to becoming law, both sides say, after the Senate yesterday cleared a key hurdle and sent the legislation to be finalized in a conference with the House.

“Now it goes to conference,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and strong supporter of the ban. “We will get this ban done this year.”

“This is a penultimate step to enactment of a law prayed for for many years,” said a Senate Republican leadership aide.

The Senate sent its partial-birth abortion ban to be finalized with the House version, after first approving, 93-0, a motion by Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat. Mrs. Boxer’s motion insists on language in the Senate version of the bill supporting Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that struck down state laws against abortion.



Senate Republican leaders treated the vote as a procedural motion needed to get the bill to conference and not a voice of support for the 1973 decision.

“This was a way to get it to conference so we can get the result we’re looking for,” said Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.

Even Mrs. Boxer said the partial-birth abortion ban will become law, but it will immediately be challenged in court and predicted it would be struck down as unconstitutional.

She also said the Senate sent a clear message yesterday to those crafting the final bill and the courts that they are strongly supportive of the Roe language.

Mr. Brownback and other supporters of the ban disagree. They are confident the Roe language will be removed before the bill is finalized.

“You’ve got both the House and the president opposed to it,” Mr. Brownback said.

The bill originally passed the Senate in March by a vote of 64-33, and supporters predict a similarly strong vote for the final bill, even if it does not have the Roe language, which was crafted by Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat.

The House passed its bill in June, 282-139. The Harkin language is the only difference between the House and Senate bills, both of which would ban partial-birth abortions except when necessary to save the mother’s life. In a partial-birth abortion — also known as dilation and extraction — the baby is partially delivered before its skull is pierced and its brain sucked out.

Mrs. Boxer and others say the bill is just as unconstitutional as a Nebraska ban that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2000, because it defines the procedure too broadly, and would not allow partial-birth abortion to protect the mother’s health.

But supporters of the ban say they have addressed those issues by providing a more precise definition of the partial-birth abortion procedure.

Democrats this week complained that Republicans’ ultimate goal is to overturn Roe, which Mrs. Boxer said was “a moderate decision that balanced all the interests.”

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, compared the Roe decision with the nation’s one-time support for slavery, saying both placed “the liberty rights of some over the life rights of others.”

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