This past Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill by a margin of 64 to 34 to ban the procedure known as late-term abortions. The bill, which President Bush is almost certain to sign into law, represents a disturbing step limiting a woman’s reproductive rights and marks the first move toward the complete destruction of women’s access to legal and safe abortions. An alternative version of the bill, which endorsed the landmark U.S. Supreme Court opinion Roe v. Wade, was rejected by the House for that very position.

Known as the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, the bill outlaws a procedure that is often medically necessary and is widely accepted as such within the medical profession. It prohibits a potentially life-saving operation by not containing an exemption for the health of the mother.

Imagine the consequences. Imagine if a pregnant woman were in her second trimester when a sonogram image reveals a potential complication in the pregnancy. Perhaps a test reveals that a blood vessel in the mother’s stomach had ruptured, causing massive internal bleeding. If the doctor chooses to help, he faces a stiff jail sentence.

The Supreme Court has ruled similar legislation unconstitutional in the past because it did not include an exception for the health of the mother. Hopefully, the court will do the same in this case, assuming this bill becomes a law.

It was therefore irresponsible for the Senate not to include an exemption for the health of the mother. This is not an ideal, absolute world. Laws should not be written in absolutist wording. Even murder, for instance – which nearly every society looks down upon – is legal if committed as an act of self-defense.

The president should veto this legislation not only because of its ignorance toward women’s rights, but even more importantly, because of its disregard for women’s health. Putting an ideological agenda ahead of sound science and women’s health and safety is not true political leadership.

 

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