In spite of the strong vote in the House of Representatives against third-trimester, "partial-birth" abortions, a presidential veto may set back this first effort by Congress to prohibit an abortion procedure.
On November 1, the House approved the ban with a two-thirds majority (288 to 139). The Senate, however, delayed a vote on its version of the bill November 8 by sending it to the Judiciary Committee, where it is uncertain what amendments, if any, will be attached to the bill before it returns to the Senate floor this month.
Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) led the effort to scuttle the bill in the Senate. He and two other Judiciary Committee members, Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Hank Brown (R-Colo.), are expected to attempt to gut the bill by amending it to include an exception for the mother's health. Many courts have interpreted the mother's "health" to include the psychological well-being of the mother, which can be applied to virtually all abortions. The House version of the bill, sponsored by Charles Canady (R-Fla.), makes an exception only when there is "reasonable doubt" that the mother's "life" is in danger.
Robert C. Smith (R-N.H.), sponsor of the Senate version, says opponents of the bill are trying to dilute the gruesome reality of partial-birth abortions. "They don't want to see what happens in this grisly, disgusting procedure," he says. "They don't want the American people to see it."
Smith says proponents of the bill are using the delay to build support to ban this abortion technique. "The more people see of this procedure, the less they like it," he says. As Smith described the procedure in detail, women walked off the Senate floor, and gallery visitors winced and covered their ears.
ENDING A LIFE: Partial-birth abortion, ...1