WASHINGTON (March 13, 2003) – By a lopsided margin of 64-33, the U.S. Senate today passed a bill to ban the practice of partial-birth abortion nationwide. The ban, twice vetoed by President Bill Clinton, is strongly supported by President George W. Bush. It now goes to the House of Representatives, which last year approved the ban by a nearly two-to-one margin.
During this week’s debate in the Senate, opponents of the ban argued that the bill violates two U.S. Supreme Court rulings -- Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion on demand, and Stenberg v. Carhart, a 2000 decision in which five justices held that Roe v. Wade covers even partial-birth abortions.
"President Bush, 70 percent of the public, 64 senators, and four Supreme Court justices say there is no constitutional right to deliver most of a living baby and then puncture her head with a scissors," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). "But five Supreme Court justices said that partial-birth abortion is protected by Roe v. Wade, and 33 senators agreed. We hope that by the time this ban reaches the Supreme Court, at least five justices will be willing to reject such extremism in defense of abortion."
The bill (S. 3) legally defines a partial-birth abortion as any abortion in which the baby is delivered "past the navel . . . outside the body of the mother" before being killed. It is well documented that partial-birth abortions are performed by the thousands, mostly on healthy babies of healthy mothers in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, and sometimes even later. (See documentation at http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/index.html . The bill would allow the method if it was ever necessary to save a mother's life.
On January 22, President Bush called partial-birth abortion an "abhorrent procedure that offends human dignity." He also urged Congress to pass the ban in his January 28 State of the Union speech. A January Gallup poll found that 70 percent of the public favors the ban.
For details on the current congressional situation, recently reported statistics on partial-birth abortion, and other up-to-date information, see the memo "Recent Developments on Partial-Birth Abortion," on the NRLC website at http://www.nrlc.org. The website also contains extensive documentation on all disputed issues surrounding partial-birth abortion, recent White House statements on the issue, and expert-certified color illustrations of the method that were recently made available to NRLC, at http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/index.html