ACLU Deplores Latest Political Power Play At Expense of Women's Health

July 25, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – In its latest unconstitutional attack on women’s health, the House of Representatives today passed yet another so-called partial-birth abortion ban. The American Civil Libertides Union called the passage of the deeply flawed legislation deplorable, saying it is overbroad, fails to include a health exception and will inevitably be struck down as unconstitutional.

“Congress is thumbing its nose at the Supreme Court, which has made clear that legislation like this is unequivocally unconstitutional,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “Too often it seems that many of our lawmakers prefer the expedient political power play over the protection of women’s health.”

The House adopted the bill, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 2002 (HR 4965), by a vote of 274 to 151, a margin 13 votes slimmer than the bill’s previous House version in 2000. President Clinton used his veto power to prevent the 2000 version from becoming law, a move that is not likely to be forthcoming from the current Bush White House.

Proponents of the legislation claim it would ban only a single, “late term” abortion procedure. In fact, the ACLU said the bill would outlaw a number of safe and common abortion procedures that are performed well before fetal viability. Perhaps worse, the ACLU said, the bill blatantly ignores the constitutional requirement that any law restricting abortion must contain an exception to protect the mother’s health.

The need for a health exception was strongly reaffirmed by the United States Supreme Court when it struck down Nebraska’s so-called partial-birth abortion ban in its 2000 ruling Stenberg v. Carhart. Supporters of the current legislation argue that it differs materially from its predecessor and should therefore be able to pass constitutional muster. The ACLU called this a “pipe dream” as it has blocked several other similar state bans in the courts.

Notably, however, several House members who had voted in favor of the bill the last time around, including Reps. Joe Baca (D-CA), Thomas Barrett (D-WI) and Ron Kind (D-WI), voted against the measure today.

“Supporters of this bill have been feeding lawmakers a steady diet of misinformation about this legislation,” Murphy said. “It looks like the truth – that this is a dangerous measure that could harm real women’s lives – is making some inroads in Washington.”

The ACLU’s letter on partial birth abortion can be found at:

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