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A Sharp Debate Over Late-Term Abortions
There's far more heat than light during Senate-House committee hearing
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 11) -- As Republicans try again to limit late-term abortions, people on both sides of the issue sparred today at a joint House-Senate committee hearing.
Opponents of late-term abortions said it's a form of legalized infanticide and often done for reasons other than a mother's health.
"We're supposed to all be for the little guy," said Rep. Henry Hyde (D-Ill.) "Whenever we campaign, it's for the little guy. Well, there is no littler guy or littler girl then a four-fifths'-born baby whose arms are flailing."
But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) replied: "No one believes that a healthy woman carrying a healthy baby should be able to have an abortion after the point of fetal viability because she won't fit in her prom dress or hates being fat or can't afford a baby and a new car or just doesn't want a baby."
Other abortion-rights supporters said barring late-term abortions would drive women to illegal, back-alley practitioners and amount to a first step toward undercutting the 1973 Roe v. Wade court decision that legalized most abortions.
Kate Michelman of the National Abortion Rights Action League told lawmakers, "For the past 25 years, we have raised or maintained a standard in which women their doctors or their families could rely. Are we now prepared as a nation to tear down that standard and place this most personal decision in the hands of politicians?"
One hot topic at the hearing was the admission, by abortion rights supporter Ron Fitzsimmons, that he lied two years ago when he said only a few hundred late-term abortions were done in the U.S. each year, and normally only to save a woman's life or abort a seriously deformed fetus. Fitzsimmons has put the real number at several thousand.
Fitzsimmons did not attend, but Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said spreading misinformation was "a very sad commentary on the lengths that those who support abortion on demand... will go to defend it."
President Bill Clinton vetoed a ban last year, after failing to reach an agreement with lawmakers on a health-of-the-mother exemption.
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