President Bill Clinton has reportedly encouraged Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to find a solution to the debate over late-term abortions.
“I told the President that I would try to find a way to resolve” the ongoing debate, Daschle told reporters. “He [the President] said, I sure hope you do. I want a deal. Count on me to be as supportive as I can,’ and he gave me a great deal of encouragement to keep on working.”
Daschle said he favored a ban on all third-trimester abortions except for cases where the woman’s health is at stake, and said such a ban would outlaw late-term abortions performed “for the sake of convenience.” Earlier this year Clinton vetoed a bill that outlawed partial-birth abortions except in cases where the mother’s life is in jeopardy, but said he would sign the bill if it was changed to include an exemption for threats to a woman’s health.
Daschle, who voted against the partial-birth abortion ban earlier this year and voted to uphold Clinton’s veto, added, “What we want to do is find a way that will allow him and all of us to support an effort to end this repulsive practice. What we want to do, however, is take into account the very serious problems involving a woman’s life and in some cases her long-term serious physical health, her physical being.”
“I am prepared to support” such a bill, he declared in February, “if it is amended to make clear that the prohibition of this procedure does not apply to situations in which the selection of the procedure, in the medical judgment of the attending physician, is necessary to preserve the life of the woman or avert serious adverse health consequences to the woman.”
The House of Representatives easily overrode Clinton’s veto, but the more liberal Senate fell nine votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override. The November election, in which Republicans increased their Senate majority by two, also put some Republican Senate seats in more conservative hands, and may have created a veto-proof majority to pass a partial-birth abortion ban next session.
Abortion foes rejected the “health of the mother” concerns raised by Clinton and Daschle, noting that “health” is so loosely defined in court rulings that such an exemption would render the ban meaningless, permitting abortions for almost any reason, including stress, depression and discomfort.
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) said the “health” argument is a false one since partial birth abortion would never be used in an emergency. “Other procedures are available that would more adequately protect the health of the mother. It’s not done for health of the mother but purely for convenience of the doctor,” he said.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee, agrees, calling Daschle’s efforts “a repackaged version” of a bill already rejected by Congress. Johnson also noted that Daschle’s proposal would cover only third-trimester abortions, while many partial-birth abortions are performed in the second trimester.
Johnson added, “Since Daschle’s proposal is entirely phony, it doesn’t matter if it applies solely to the partial-birth procedure or to other abortion methods as well. Either way, it is a sham dreamed up to protect pro-abortion politicians, and would not protect any babies.”
In partial-birth abortion, the unborn child is partially delivered through the birth canal, but while its head remains inside the mother the abortionist stabs its skull with a scissors, then sucks out its brains. An effort to ban the gruesome procedure drew support even from some traditionally pro-choice members of Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he will bring back a bill banning partial-birth abortions. “This is clearly an issue that will not go away,” he promised.
— E.P. News