For the first time since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case in
1973, Congress has passed legislation placing restrictions on the
practice of abortion.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed a measure yesterday banning
what the bill’s sponsors call partial-birth abortions. The bill,
approved by a vote of 64-34 in the Senate, was also passed earlier
this month in the House, and the legislation will become law if
President Bush signs the bill, which he supports. Opponents have
vowed to challenge the legislation in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This legislation would ban one simple grotesque unjustified
procedure that destroys the life of an unborn child,” said Sen.
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in a speech from the Senate floor yesterday
“This is a historic day for life. … The child in the womb is
not a piece of property,” said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), also
speaking on the Senate floor yesterday morning.
A “partial-birth abortion” refers to an abortion performed when
the fetus has already been partially delivered, usually occurring
in the second or third trimester. Doctors who perform the procedure
illegally would face up to two years in prison.
The bill contains a “life” exemption, meaning the abortion
procedure is allowed if it is necessary to save the mother’s life.
But the bill does not contain a “health” exemption, so women who
face non life-threatening health problems are still banned from
having a partial-birth abortion.
Several senators, including Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Frank
Lautenberg (D-N.J.) voiced their opposition to the bill because it
does not provide a health exemption. President Clinton twice vetoed
similar legislation for the same reason.
Opponents have reason to believe the Supreme Court will rule the
law unconstitutional. In 2000, the high court ruled 5-4 that a
Nebraska law, similar to the law passed today, was unconstitutional
because it did not contain a provision for the health of the
“The bill is purely political. Everyone knows it will be struck
down. It’s unconstitutional,” Lautenberg said during his remarks on
the Senate floor yesterday.
Michigan politicians were divided on the legislation. Sens. Carl
Levin and Debbie Stabenow both voted against the legislation today.
Of the 14 members of the House of Representatives, everyone voted
in favor of the partial-birth abortion ban except Reps. John
Conyers (D-Detroit) and Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak). The bill passed
the House on Oct. 2 by a margin of 281-142.
“Partial-birth abortion is not simply a private or medical
decision. It is an ugly procedure performed on defenseless children
when there is no health or safety risk to the mother,” said Rep.
Pete Hoekstra (R-Holland).
Student groups on campus expressed differing opinions on the
legislation. “(The bill) doesn’t have an exception for a woman’s
health. That is crucial for any abortion legislation. The bill
defines partial-birth abortion so vaguely that it could be used to
ban far more wide-ranging procedures than proponents of the bill
claim it would,” said LSA junior Greg Malivuk, executive board
member of Students for Choice.
LSA senior Louise Conlon, president of Students for Life, said
the procedure is particularly “terrible” because it is performed so
late in pregnancies. “Contrary to the claims of the Planned
Parenthood Federation of America … This technique is not rare and
not only that, it is being used on health mother’s with healthy
babies,” Conlon said.