ACLU Assails Senate Vote on So-Called "Partial-Birth Abortion" As Yet Another Political Game

October 20, 1999 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON–Setting the stage for an election-year battle with President Clinton, the Senate today adopted abortion ban legislation despite court rulings that found 18 similar state bans unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the vote as a callous political game played at the expense of women’s health and lives.

“The federal ban is no better than those rejected by courts across the country for unconstitutionally endangering women’s health and restricting their right to choose abortion before viability,” said Kathryn Engustian, a Legislative Counsel for the ACLU. The bill was adopted on a vote of 63 to 34.

The ACLU said that an eleventh-hour attempt by bill sponsors to amend the bill did not cure its numerous constitutional problems. Since the last congressional vote on so-called “partial-birth abortion,” 10 court decisions on the merits of state bans blocked the measures because they were considered harmful to women and unconstitutional. Like those state bans the Senate bill would ban safe and common abortion procedures performed before fetal viability.

The bill has drawn the ire of health professionals including the American Medical Association, the American Medical Women’s Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Nurses Association. The AMA no longer endorses the bill, which imposes criminal penalties of up to two years imprisonment for physicians who perform the procedure.

The bill provides only a limited exception in the event that a woman’s life is in danger, and no exceptions at all for when a woman’s health is jeopardized, including blindness and her ability to bear children in the future.

“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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