Congress Continues to Play Politics With Women's Health; ACLU Urges Defeat of Latest Anti-Choice Bill

July 17, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the defeat of yet another initiative to ban so-called “partial birth abortion,” saying that the bill will inevitably be repudiated by the Supreme Court as it is overbroad and contains no exception to protect the health of the mother. The Supreme Court invalidated a similar ban just two years ago.

“The Supreme Court has long held that any restriction on abortion must contain an exception to protect women’s health, a fact that the anti-choice sponsors of this bill continue to ignore,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “This bill – like its predecessor two years ago – is utterly unconstitutional.”

“It is time for Congress to quit playing politics with women’s health,” Murphy added.

At issue is a bill introduced recently by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and misleadingly called the “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2002” that is set to be marked up today in the full House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). Proponents of the legislation (H.R. 4965) claim it would ban only a single, “late term” abortion procedure. In fact, 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.

This requirement was reaffirmed by the 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.”

“The Court struck down the last bill because its sponsors refused to include a women’s health exception and because it criminalized safe and common abortion procedures,” Murphy said. “This bill suffers from the same constitutional flaws.”

The ACLU’s letter on the bill can be found at:

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