WASHINGTON -- While President Clinton and the Republican Congress battle over partial-birth abortions, laws containing similar pro-life protections are being challenged in several states.
In two - Ohio and Michigan - courts have ruled unconstitutional laws prohibiting partial-birth abortions. Sixteen of the 19 partial-birth abortion laws were enacted last year. Eight states currently enforce them: Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.
Courts have blocked enforcement or declared the laws illegal in 11 others - Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio and Rhode Island.
"We're going to press ahead with our efforts to pass the bill into law at the federal level," said Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., the bill's lead sponsor. Congress will try again this year - perhaps as early as the spring - to override Clinton's veto of the bill last October.
"That's what we set out to do and that's still our goal," Canady added.
A federal judge last month blocked enforcement of New Jersey's partial-birth abortion ban, which the legislature enacted over pro-abortion Republican Gov. Christie Whitman's veto. Trial has been set for June 3.
"This is a process that's going to be fought out over an extended period of time until ultimately the Supreme Court, I believe, will address the issue," Canady said.
Ohio was the first state, in 1995, to ban the partial-birth abortion procedure. In November, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court finding that the law "imposed unacceptable burdens on a woman's life, health and right to choose an abortion."
Right-to-life supporters, however, don't consider Ohio's law as a legitimate partial-birth abortion ban because it doesn't use the phrase partial-birth abortion and not written in the constitutionally valid language of the federal bill.
While the House has more than enough votes to buck the president, the Senate, by most accounts, is still three votes short of the two-thirds majority required to override.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said he would schedule a Senate vote in the spring but he didn't sound hopeful about the chance for success. Asked whether the vote would carry, Lott said, "I doubt it," adding that "we may get another vote or two."
"It's an uphill fight for our side," said Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee.
In 1997, 62 percent of states enacted right-to-life legislation and, in those 31 states, a total of 55 pieces of legislation became law. At the end of 1997, some 17 states currently enforce three or more various pro-life protections, including various types of informed consent, parental notification or consent statutes, reflection periods, or bans on partial-birth abortion.