- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Republican senator from Utah is attempting to relaunch a measure that would ban abortion in the District beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy after the House defeated its version of the bill Tuesday night.

Sen. Mike Lee filed the District of Columbia Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act as an amendment to a cybersecurity bill under debate on the Senate floor. House Republicans had failed to pass the same legislation, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, with the two-thirds support necessary under a suspension of rules.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Lee said the senator decided the timing was right to file an amendment to the cybersecurity bill authored by Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent. A federal appeals court Wednesday temporarily prohibited Arizona from enforcing its ban on abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, just two days after a lower-court judge had blocked a challenge to the state law.

“The issue of prohibiting abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy is on the minds of the American people in light of [Monday’s] ruling in Arizona and yesterday’s vote in the House, which is why Senator Lee decided to attach the amendment to the cybersecurity bill,” spokeswoman Emily Bennion said.

Mr. Lee had filed the D.C. abortion measure as a stand-alone bill, but it is not expected to gain any traction in the Democrat-controlled chamber.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, invoked cloture this week to end debate on the cybersecurity bill and proceed to a vote as he and Republicans try to whittle down dozens of filed amendments and reach a compromise on their priorities — or at least publicize their political positions in an election year.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, predicted Wednesday that forces in the Senate will thwart Mr. Lee’s amendment.

“What House Republicans failed to do yesterday,” she said, “the Senate is unlikely to be keen to take up — to undermine the reproductive health of women nationwide, using this bill’s direct attack on Roe v. Wade.”

Ms. Bennion said Mr. Lee is “hopeful since the House got a vote, but it all depends on Reid.”

Even in the unlikely event the D.C. abortion measure gets through the Senate, it would have to pass the House before it is sent to President Obama for his signature.

Limitations in the D.C.-only bill, introduced on the basis that the fetus can feel pain, would not apply in cases where an abortion is necessary to protect the life of the pregnant woman or prevent her “irreversible physical impairment.” The restrictions still would apply in cases of rape, incest, or if the fetus has a medical condition.

Deliberations on Capitol Hill have been closely watched by pro-life groups such as the National Right to Life Committee and pro-choice groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, which announced they would record individual members’ votes on their policy scorecards.

Mrs. Norton has decried the measure as part of a “war on women” and another attack on the city’s self-determination. She said federal lawmakers would never propose a similar bill that applies to states with voting members of Congress.

Proponents of the bill noted that Congress has ultimate legislative authority over the District, but Democrats have argued that their Republican counterparts are abusing that power.

NOTE: A previous version of this story said the D.C. abortion amendment had been attached to the Senate cybersecurity bill. The amendment has been filed but not attached to the bill.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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