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Anti-abortionists may win new federal ban
Congress chips away at abortion rights

By Elizabeth Schulte | September 26, 2003 | Page 2

LEGISLATION THAT would ban a late-term abortion procedure came closer to becoming law last week after the Senate unanimously voted in favor of it. The bill is the latest attempt to pass a ban on what abortion opponents call "partial-birth" abortion--a made-up term that they use to describe a procedure used in the second or third trimester of a woman's pregnancy, almost always when the woman's life is in danger or the fetus is damaged.

The proposed ban contains no exception to protect a pregnant woman's health. And in states where similar bans have become law, the wording of the legislation has been so vague that it has effectively outlawed all abortion procedures.

That's exactly what the anti-abortion fanatics want. George W. Bush promised that he would sign the bill into law if it came to his desk--and it could arrive there anytime in the upcoming weeks.

The Senate voted 93-0 in favor of the legislation--in part because Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) attached a provision not in the House version of the bill that would affirm Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. But abortion opponents don't see Boxer's amendment as an obstacle--and are confident that any pro-choice language will be stripped out of the bill.

"It won't be a problem," said anti-abortion bigot Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Pro-choice Democrats are kidding themselves if they think that they have won one from the anti-abortionists.

Meanwhile, mainstream pro-choice groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America appear resigned to the ban. "We're one step closer to President Bush putting the government in between women and their doctors and becoming the first president ever to criminalize safe medical procedures," said Kate Michelman, NARAL's president for almost two decades before announcing her resignation September 21.

NARAL believes that the ban will definitely become law, and the Supreme Court will be their last hope. Michelman recently complained to the New York Times that "Americans have become complacent" that abortion would never be taken away. But groups like NARAL haven't lifted a finger to galvanize pro-choice opposition to these attacks on a woman's right to abortion.

In 1989 when Roe v. Wade hung in the balance with the case of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on Washington--and helped tip the balance for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of abortion rights. This is an important lesson for protecting a woman's right to choose today.

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