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Senate Set to OK Partial Birth Abort Ban

October 21, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Congress is set to ban a specific abortion procedure, a legislative landmark that could lead to a fierce legal fight affecting a woman’s right to end a pregnancy. The ban on what opponents call partial birth abortion is likely to pass by a wide margin when it comes up for a vote scheduled in the Senate on Tuesday. Three weeks ago, the House passed the bill with a 281-142 vote, and Senate action would send it to President Bush, who strongly supports the ban.

The legislation bans a procedure, generally performed in the second or third trimester, in which a fetus is partially delivered before a doctor punctures the skull. Doctors who violate the ban could be subject to up to two years in jail.

The ban would be the first on a specific abortion method since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision 30 years ago made abortions legal nationwide, and it comes eight years after Republicans captured a majority in the House and made the legislation one of their top social issue goals.

President Clinton twice vetoed such bans because they did not include exceptions to protect the health of the mother. But passage was practically inevitable after Republicans regained control of the Senate in the 2002 election, giving the GOP control of both houses of Congress and the White House.

However, ban opponents have found support for their arguments in a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that struck down a Nebraska state law similar to the congressional bill.

Both sides are now girding for a court battle that could become a proving ground for future efforts to erode Roe v. Wade.

The 2000 Supreme Court decision found the Nebraska law unconstitutional because the definition of partial birth _ not a formal medical term _ was unclear about what was prohibited. The court also said that the law violated a woman’s right because there was no health exception.

Sponsors of the congressional bill said they had tightened up their definition of the procedure and included findings that prove that the procedure was never necessary to protect a woman’s health.

But Dr. Leroy Carhart, a general surgeon in Bellevue, Neb., who headed the lawsuit against the Nebraska law, said he would again challenge the national ban once it is signed into law.

``What we’re trying to say is this is not a ban on late term abortions and it’s not a ban on one procedure,″ he said.


The bill is S.3

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