Necessary First Step

The U.S. Senate last week voted 65-32 to ban partial birth abortion. The 65-32 vote sent the legislation to the House of Representatives, where passage is expected this spring. Pro-life supporters are optimistic that the House will follow the Senate’s lead.

For the American Life League perspective click here.

(Michael F. Flach is editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald, where this article first appeared.)

The House approved the ban last year by a nearly two-to-one margin. President George Bush, who has called partial-birth abortion an “abhorrent procedure,” is expected to sign the ban into law.

“This is a great day for the unborn child in the U.S.,” said Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. “This barbaric procedure has taken the lives of innocent human beings for many years in our country. I strongly urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation as soon as possible so that our unborn children will no longer be at risk by this procedure.”

The bishop said his was particularly gratified that the bill recognizes the fact that this procedure is never necessary to protect the health of the mother. “This terrible sham has been invoked as justification for infanticide in our country, and if this legislation is passed and signed by the President, it will help to overcome the culture of death and build up the culture of life in our nation,” he said.

“This historic vote sets the ban on track to be the first federal law limiting abortion since Roe v. Wade,” said Cathleen Cleaver, spokesperson for the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

The Senate vote “is a great success for those who have worked so hard for passage of this bill,” she said. “Above all it is a victory for women and children, who bear the pain and anguish wrought by this inhumane procedure.”

“President Bush, 70 percent of the public, 65 senators and four Supreme Court justices say there is no constitutional right to deliver most of a living baby and then puncture her head with scissors,” said Doug Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). “But five Supreme Court justices said that partial-birth abortion is protected by Roe v. Wade, and 32 senators agreed.”

Johnson is hopeful that by the time the ban reaches the Supreme Court, at least five justices will be willing to reject “such extremism in defense of abortion.”

“The newly passed ban on partial-birth abortion absolutely meets the requirements set by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart,” said Ken Connor, Family Research Council president. “From a tightened definition of the partial-birth abortion procedure to evidence showing that it is never medically necessary, the bill specifically addresses the concerns needed to garner majority support in the Court. It’s time we put this barbaric procedure behind us.”

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said passage of the ban by the Senate “gives new hope that soon women and their unborn children will no longer be threatened by this horrible and gruesome procedure.

“We now look forward to passage of similar legislation in the House, giving President Bush the opportunity to fulfill his pledge of signing a partial birth abortion ban into law,” Anderson said. “We still have a long way to go towards building what John Paul II has called the ‘Culture of Life.’ Banning partial birth abortion is a good and necessary first step.”

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