Vote on So-Called "Partial-Birth Abortion" Just Another Political Game, ACLU Says

April 5, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Despite imminent Supreme Court action on the constitutionality of a ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion,” the House today passed similar abortion ban legislation.

“The proposed federal ban is no better than the one currently before the Supreme Court,” said Kathryn Engustian, a Legislative Counsel for the ACLU. “If bill supporters wanted to do anything other than play election-year politics, they would have waited to hear from the Supreme Court before voting on this bill.”

Despite years of furious lobbying by anti-abortion groups, the vote this year — 287 to 141 — was barely enough to override the anticipated presidential veto. In fact, pro-choice advocates gained ground this year, as ten more “no” votes were cast against the ban than in the previous House vote.

“Once again, Congress has chosen to play a callous political game at the expense of endangering women’s health and lives,” Engustian said.

The bill bans safe abortion procedures that are frequently used before fetal viability. It provides only a limited exception in the event that a woman’s life is in danger, and no exception at all for when a woman’s health is jeopardized. The House bill is identical to a version adopted by the Senate in October 1999 by a vote of 63-34.

“Under this legislation,” Engustian said, “doctors would be faced with an unconscionable choice — perform the medically appropriate abortion procedure and commit a felony, or risk their patients’ health and safety to avoid breaking the law.”

The bill, which imposes criminal penalties of up to two years imprisonment for physicians who perform the procedure, is opposed by medical groups including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women’s Association and the American Nurses Association.

“This bill would take medical discretion away from doctors and families and place it in the hands of the U.S. Congress,” Engustian said. “Congress should stay out of the operating room and leave sensitive medical decisions to trained physicians and their patients.”

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