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

March 13, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today decried Senate passage of the latest so-called “”Partial-Birth Abortion”” ban, 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.””

The Senate adopted the bill, the “”Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 2003″” (S. 3), by a vote of 64 to 33. 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 ban.

Since 1995, thirty-one 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 United States Supreme Court struck Nebraska’s ban 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.

“”The anti-choice movement claimed that earlier versions of this bill banned only one procedure, but the Supreme Court said otherwise,”” noted Murphy. “”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 endangered women’s health and reproductive freedom 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 will challenge it immediately on behalf of the National Abortion Federation and its members, as well as several individual physicians.

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