Senate To Vote On Late-Term Abortion Ban (5/15/97)
Behind The Abortion Debate (5/15/97)
Clinton Will Support Late-Term Abortion Ban
Senate minority leader's amendment would provide additional exception
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 14) -- President Bill Clinton indicated today he would support a ban on late-term abortions if Congress accepts legislation offered by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
The president last spring vetoed a more restrictive ban on a specific procedure doctors call an "intact dilation and extraction," which critics call "partial-birth" abortion. That bill contained an exception to save the life of the mother.
Senators today began debating an identical measure, which the House passed March 20 and the president indicated he would veto again.
Enter South Dakota Democrat Daschle. He plans to offer an amendment that would ban all forms of abortion, including the so-called "partial-birth" procedure, on fetuses that are viable outside the mother's womb. In addition to saving the life of the mother, Daschle would provide another crucial exception to prevent "grievous injury" to the mother's physical health.
Daschle defines "grievous injury" as either a severely debilitating disease, a condition caused by the pregnancy, or the inability to provide the necessary treatment of a life-threatening condition. (224K wav sound)
Today, the president told Daschle he "would be supportive" of the compromise, according to White House spokesman Mike McCurry. "It is consistent with the president's view that abortion, post-viability, should be restricted," McCurry said.
Still, the outcome of the vote is not certain, and debate today was emotionally charged.
"Open your heart to these babies," declared Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, the chief sponsor of the more restrictive language. "Don't let this kind of barbarism continue," he said. "Stop the murder. Stop the infanticide." (320K wav sound)
Countered California Democrat Barbara Boxer, "On the other side of this debate they are very good at getting votes. And they are very good at being politicians, but I don't think they are worth a wit in the gynecological operating room! I don't want them in that operating room, telling a doctor what procedure to use for my daughter, or my niece."
Meanwhile, critics on both sides of the issue are accusing Daschle of playing politics. Some foes of late-term abortion say his language might even increase the number of procedures.
National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League president Kate Michelman said Daschle's amendment "goes too far," and is the result of the lawmaker facing "a significant challenge in 1998."
However, a Republican abortion-rights group, Republicans for Choice, seems prepared to go along with the Daschle's plan. "NARAL has to look at reality," said Ann Stone, the group's president. "Only three or four doctors in the whole country perform third-trimester abortions, anyway."
After debating various alternatives, senators are expected to vote late Thursday. Not yet known is whether supporters have enough votes to override a presidential veto of an unaltered bill.
The House passed the legislation by a vote of 295-136, a large enough margin to override. Can the Senate muster the two-thirds majority -- 67 votes -- needed? Supporters of Santorum's bill believe they have 63 votes.
Looking for four more, the Child Protection Fund has launched an ad campaign targeting several Democratic freshmen as well as Democrats Tom Harkin of Iowa, Dale Bumpers of Arkansas, Bob Graham of Florida, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, and Russell D. Feingold and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin.
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