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News ::
US passes 'partial birth' abortion ban (english)
05 Jun 2003
US passes 'partial birth' abortion ban -
Note from the poster - This is a major story in womens rights, why is this story only available from outside-of-U.S. media? Its all getting scarier by the minute.
Note from the poster - This is a major story in womens rights, why is this story only available from outside-of-U.S. media?
Its all getting scarier by the minute.

US passes 'partial birth' abortion ban
05.06.2003 3.20 pm

WASHINGTON - The United States House of Representatives easily approved a ban on a procedure critics call "partial birth" abortions today, a measure supported by President George W Bush and championed for nearly a decade by anti-abortion groups.

If the bill, approved 282-139, withstands legal challenges, it would be the first time a specific form of abortion has been criminalised since the 1973 Supreme Court Roe versus Wade ruling that upheld abortion rights.

Amid intense and graphic debate, complete with accusations of "infanticide" and sketches of sharp instruments being plunged into the base of a fetal skull, the ban has been considered in Congress repeatedly since 1995. Under the bill, a doctor could face up to two years in prison as well as civil lawsuits for performing a "partial birth" abortion.

As the emotional debate concluded on Wednesday night, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, urged lawmakers to vote for the ban and "think of the frantic wriggling of that little body in that gloved hand, think of that moment of pure terror when those sanitised scissors puncture the baby's neck."

President Bill Clinton vetoed earlier versions because it contained no exemption to protect a woman's health.

Bush supports a ban on what the White House has called an "abhorrent procedure." The legislation will go to him for his signature after one relatively minor difference with a Senate-passed version is worked out.

However, the measure is likely to face a swift court challenge to its constitutionality by the American Civil Liberties Union and abortion rights groups, in part because it has no health exemption.

Critics of the bill also say it is written in a way that will ban many forms of abortion, not just one particular procedure. Courts have struck down similar state statutes.

"We are voting to limit a woman's access to safe and legal medical procedures," said California Democrat Lynn Woolsey, a strong opponent of the ban.

"Things can go tragically wrong in the final stages of pregnancy," Woolsey said. "A woman should not be required to risk her health and future fertility by continuing a dangerous pregnancy."

Sponsors of the bill said they drafted it carefully to specifically address one "gruesome" procedure that is performed most often in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy. They also include congressional "findings" that the procedure is never medically necessary to protect a woman's health, which they believe will enable it to pass the constitutional test.

"Partial birth abortion is the termination of the life of a living baby just seconds before it takes its first breath outside the womb," said Rep. Steve Chabot, the Ohio Republican who is the lead sponsor of the bill.

"The procedure is violent. It's gruesome. It's horrific. It's barbaric. It's infanticide," he added.

The two sides disagree how common it is, but the National Right to Life Committee estimates several thousand a year, "mostly on healthy babies of healthy mothers."

Led by Pennsylvania Republican James Greenwood and Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer, some lawmakers offered an alternative that would ban all late-term or post-viability abortions, focusing on the timing rather than the technique. It was defeated 287-133.

Opponents of the Greenwood-Hoyer approach argued it would give doctors too much leeway to define viability and would allow broad exemptions for the woman's physical or mental health.

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