Senate debates partial-birth abortion ban
The U.S. Senate yesterday began debating a bill that would ban partial-birth abortions, and both sides of the debate expect it to pass with a vote as early as Thursday.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), the chief sponsor of the bill, says he has at least 60 votes, enough to break a filibuster, but expects a "very close" vote on a plan by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) that would require proof that the fetus is viable outside the womb and would allow exemptions for the health of the mother.

Santorum says Durbin's plan is bogus. "Partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman, poses serious risks to a woman's health, and lies outside the standard of medical care, and should, therefore, be banned," he said. "Partial-birth abortion is a detestable procedure that affronts and insults human dignity. … Just to describe it here has to send shivers down your back."

Sen. Barbara Boxer claims Santorum's bill is just a smokescreen to throw women into prison. "It's an attempt to outlaw all abortions, to take away a woman's right to choose … and criminalize abortions," she said. "And what follows from that? Women and doctors would be in jail." Advocates of abortion rights promise to sue if the bill passes and Bush signs it as promised.

Meanwhile, one of Britain's leading brain scientists says new evidence suggests fetuses develop consciousness before 24 weeks. "Given that we can't prove consciousness or not, we should be very cautious about being too gung ho and assuming something is not conscious," says Baroness Greenfield, a professor of neurology at Oxford University. "We should err on the side of caution." Still, she didn't call for changes in Britain's abortion laws. ...

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