- July 25 - In its latest unconstitutional attack on women's health, the House
of Representatives today passed yet another so-called partial-birth abortion ban.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the passage of the deeply flawed legislation
deplorable, saying it is overbroad, fails to include a health exception and will
inevitably be struck down as unconstitutional.
"Congress is thumbing its nose at the Supreme Court, which has made clear
that legislation like this is unequivocally unconstitutional," said Laura
W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. "Too often it
seems that many of our lawmakers prefer the expedient political power play over
the protection of women's health."
The House adopted the bill, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 2002 (HR 4965),
by a vote of 274 to 151, a margin 13 votes slimmer than the bill's previous House
version in 2000. President Clinton used his veto power to prevent the 2000 version
from becoming law, a move that is not likely to be forthcoming from the current
Bush White House.
Proponents of the legislation claim it would ban only a single, "late
term" abortion procedure. In fact, the ACLU said the bill would outlaw a
number of safe and common abortion procedures that are performed well before fetal
viability. Perhaps worse, the ACLU said, the bill blatantly ignores the constitutional
requirement that any law restricting abortion must contain an exception to protect
the mother's health.
The need for a health exception was strongly reaffirmed by the United States
Supreme Court when it struck down Nebraska's so-called partial-birth abortion
ban in its 2000 ruling Stenberg v. Carhart. Supporters of the current legislation
argue that it differs materially from its predecessor and should therefore be
able to pass constitutional muster. The ACLU called this a "pipe dream"
as it has blocked several other similar state bans in the courts.
Notably, however, several House members who had voted in favor of the bill
the last time around, including Reps. Joe Baca (D-CA), Thomas Barrett (D-WI) and
Ron Kind (D-WI), voted against the measure today.
"Supporters of this bill have been feeding lawmakers a steady diet of
misinformation about this legislation," Murphy said. "It looks like
the truth - that this is a dangerous measure that could harm real women's lives
- is making some inroads in Washington."