On Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill banning partial-birth abortion. Introduced on March 13 by Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, the Senate cleared the final version of the bill by a 63-34 vote, with 17 Democrats voting for it and three Republicans voting against it. The House had passed the bill earlier this month by a vote of 282-139. The legislation would ban partial-birth abortion except when necessary to save the mother’s life.
Partial-birth abortion is an abominable procedure (in fact, a form of infanticide as the late Sen. Moynihan once said), whereby a fetus is partially delivered except for its head. Legislation banning the procedure twice passed Congress, once in 1996 and again in 1997, but was vetoed both times by Bill Clinton. The Senate fell short of the votes needed to override the vetoes. President Bush, however, is determined to sign the bill into law, and has said, “This is very important legislation that will end an abhorrent practice and continue to build a culture of life in America.”
The federal law will be the first to ban an abortion procedure since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.
Pro-choice groups plan to challenge the ban in court once the bill is signed into law. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) and the Center for Reproductive Rights said they will win, since the Supreme Court has struck down a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion, ruling it is vague and a threat to women’s health. “A federal ban on safe medical procedures endangers women’s health. Medical decisions must be made by medical professionals — not politicians,” said Vicki Saporta, president of NAF. “It will be a short-lived victory for Republicans.”
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) plans to file an amicus brief on behalf of the law. ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow said the legislation “is well-crafted and legally sound,” and that it “will survive a constitutional challenge.”
Although a legal battle is expected, a January Gallup poll found 70 percent of Americans favored a federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The stage is set and the stakes are high. But as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, stated, “The American people have turned away from the divisive politics of abortion and embraced the inclusive politics of life. They have recoiled at the barbarism of partial-birth abortion and decided it has no place in a moral society. They have called on us to answer the muted cries of the innocent.” We are pleased that the president intends to promptly sign the legislation.
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