Senate Debates Ban on Safe Abortion Procedures; ACLU Says Supporters Misrepresent Bill's Real Danger to Women's Health

March 11, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today decried the latest so-called “”partial-birth abortion”” ban currently being debated on the Senate floor, saying the bill’s proponents have misrepresented the bill’s true danger to women’s health and reproductive freedom.

“”This bill is no better than the ban the Supreme Court struck down less than three years ago,”” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “”Once again opponents of reproductive freedom are playing fast and loose with both women’s health and the Constitution.””

Despite the bill’s serious flaws, the Senate is expected to adopt the measure later this week. The House is also expected to pass the bill later this year. President Clinton vetoed two previous versions of the bill; the current Bush White House supports the legislation.

Since 1995, 31 states have enacted bans on so-called “”partial-birth abortions.”” In every state where the bans have been challenged, the courts have declared them unconstitutional and blocked their enforcement. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Nebraska’s ban unconstitutional because it lacked an exception to protect women’s health and it prohibited several abortion procedures, including the method most commonly used in the second trimester.

Supporters of the current legislation argue that it differs substantially from previous bans and should therefore withstand constitutional challenge. The ACLU called this more misleading rhetoric from anti-choice legislators.

“”The anti-choice movement claimed that earlier versions of this bill banned only one procedure, but the Supreme Court said otherwise,”” Murphy noted. “”This bill too bans an array of safe and proven abortion techniques, including the most widely used second-trimester procedure. But that is not all. The bill blatantly ignores the constitutional requirement that any law restricting abortion must contain an exception to protect the woman’s health.””

“”The Senate is threatening to endanger women’s health and reproductive freedom with the legislation it is considering today,”” Murphy said. “”Lawmakers should not interfere with a doctor’s ability to make the best and most appropriate decisions to protect patient health.””

If the ban is enacted, the ACLU said it would challenge it in court immediately on behalf of the National Abortion Federation and its members as well as several individual physicians.

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