Senate To Vote On Late-Term Abortion Ban (5/15/97)
Behind The Abortion Debate (5/15/97)
Will An AMA Endorsement Sway Any Votes?
A vote on late-term abortion ban is set for this afternoon
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 20) -- With a boost from the American Medical Association (AMA), supporters of legislation to ban a type of late-term abortions believe they are within a few votes of a veto-proof majority.
On the eve of this afternoon's vote in the Senate, the AMA endorsed a ban on so-called "partial birth" abortions. The endorsement came after lawmakers agreed to rewrite the legislation to protect doctors from prosecution if they begin to deliver a baby, but then resort to the "intact dilation and extraction" procedure to save the mother's life.
In a letter to Sen. Rick Santorum, the bill's chief sponsor in the Senate, AMA executive vice president P. John Seward said while the AMA's general policy is to oppose criminalizing medical procedures, the group has supported such legislation "where the procedure was narrowly defined and not medically indicated." The rewritten bill, Seward said, "meets both those tests."
Abortion rights supporters criticized the AMA's move, with Kate Michelman of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League saying it could lead to political intrusions "into doctors' professional decision-making."
Whether the AMA's endorsement will affect the outcome remains unknown. Santorum said he has 62 votes for the ban, five short of the 67 needed to override a promised presidential veto if all senators are present. "We believe there are more than enough members still undecided on this issue to make the difference," Santorum said.
Among the undecided are Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, Democrats Tom Harkin of Iowa, Dale Bumpers of Arkansas and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Rep. Charles Canady, the bill's House sponsor, said the AMA endorsement represents "a real boost."
"I think we're within sight of a veto-proof majority," the Florida Republican told The Associated Press. The House already has approved the measure with enough votes to override a veto, although representatives would have to agree to the Senate's changes.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still opposes the legislation, saying it's inappropriate for lawmakers to thrust themselves into medical decision-making.
Last week, the Senate defeated two less restrictive alternatives, setting the stage for today's vote, set for 2:15 p.m. EDT. Last year, President Bill Clinton vetoed similar legislation and has said he would do so again.
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