After overwhelming Senate vote, ban goes to the House.
The U.S. Senate approved this morning a ban on partial-birth abortion. Leading Democrats are sharply attacking the 64-33 vote that sets the stage for another public battle between prolife groups and abortion advocates.
The measure now moves to the U.S. House, which has previously approved a ban. President Clinton twice vetoed partial-birth abortion bans. However, President Bush clearly made the ban a priority during his remarks at January's 30th annual March for Life on the Mall. In a statement today, Bush commended the Senate's action.
"Partial-birth abortion is an abhorrent procedure that offends human dignity," he said. "Today's action is an important step toward building a culture of life in America. I look forward to the House passing legislation and working with the Senate to resolve any differences so that I can sign legislation banning partial-birth abortion into law."
According to House Republican leaders, the House will move to vote on the ban by April.
Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) drafted the Senate bill. Partial-birth abortion legislation at both the federal and state level has had popular support among conservatives for nearly ten years. According to a recent press statement, "The National Right to Life Committee and the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation strongly commend Senator Rick Santorum for his tireless efforts to put an end to the brutality of partial-birth abortion," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
But so far, the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have found that state and federal bans on partial-birth abortion violate the Constitution. According to Santorum, the first section of the Senate's ban includes a series of findings that demonstrate that a partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary to preserve the health of a woman, poses a serious risks to a woman's health, and lies outside the standard of medical care. The second section prohibits the performance of a partial-birth abortion unless this abortion method is necessary to preserve the life of the mother.
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, joined by specialists, has come forward to state that a "partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary to protect a mother's health or her future fertility."
On Thursday, abortion-rights advocates were quick to condemn the Senate vote and predict it will be the start of a rollback of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion laws. According to NARAL Prochoice America President Kate Michelman, the Senate bill "is only the beginning of a coordinated strategy to rollback a woman's right to choose and insert government into our private lives."
Christian organizations and prolife advocates today have applauded the Senate action, but acknowledged the political fight still ahead.
"Five Supreme Court justices [have] said that partial-birth abortion is protected by Roe v. Wade, and 33 senators agreed," said NRLC's Johnson, "We hope that by the time this ban reaches the Supreme Court, at least five justices will be willing to reject such extremism in defense of abortion."
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of The American Center for Law and Justice, said the ban will ultimately go before the Supreme Court. "This is an important victory for the protection of human life," he said. "The practice of partial-birth abortion amounts to infanticide and should be outlawed. We will work aggressively to defend this law in court—a law that is not only necessary, but eminently constitutional as well."
Additional reaction to the Senate vote includes:
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