House Overrides Clinton On Late-Term Abortions
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 23) -- Setting the stage for an election-year showdown with President Bill Clinton, the House voted 296-132 Thursday to override the president's veto of a ban on a certain type of late-term abortions.
But while the override easily cleared the House, the Senate is less likely to join in. The original legislation won Senate approval 64-36, three votes shy of the two-thirds supermajority needed for an override.
In the House, proponents of the ban (H.R. 1122) called the procedure "murder" and "infanticide," while other lawmakers said the decision ought to rest with a woman and her doctor, not legislators in Washington.
Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said there is no need for the procedure, ever. Coburn and other opponents of the late-term abortion procedure describe it as "partial-birth" abortion; in the procedure, a fetus is partially delivered, then its skull is drained to permit removal of the body.
"It's my hope that we can come together as a nation and understand that partial-birth abortion is murder, nothing short, nothing less," Coburn said.
"What we're talking about is infanticide," he added.
But Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) accused Republicans of looking for an election-year issue, saying GOP leaders could have looked at legislative options immediately after Clinton's October 1997 veto.
Now the 1998 midterm elections are drawing near, Lee said, "and they wish to play with the lives of women."
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) called it "a sick, gruesome procedure, a violation of the most basic of human rights."
But Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said the issue is women's health. "The health of every woman in this nation is precious," Lowey said. "Who in this chamber would stand in the operating room and limit their options?"
Eighteen state courts already have blocked similar state bans as unconstitutionally vague, Lowey said. "We must trust the women of America, not the government ... to make this very, very personal choice," she said.
"Put your faith in the women of America, not this Congress..." Lowey said to applause.
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) reached out to opponents of the ban, conceding it is "a soul-wrenching issue" on which people of good faith can disagree.
But he said in balancing the life of an unborn child against a woman's health, life must take precedence. Hyde compared abortion on demand to slavery and the Holocaust, saying the common thread is the dehumanization of the victim.
"You have this chance today to put an end to the process of unspeakable, destructive cruelty, unworthy of a civilized society," Hyde told his colleagues. "Our beloved America is becoming the killing fields."
Abortion-rights supporters say it is a relatively rare procedure, and normally only used when there are serious health complications for the mother or fatal abnormalities in a fetus.
Clinton has said he could support a ban that includes exceptions in cases where a woman's health would be jeopardized by carrying the fetus to full term.