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You Are Here: Home > Online Library > Articles > Life & Health > Article
Senate Ok's late-term abortion ban
BY  HELEN DEWAR, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
October 22, 1999

The Senate yesterday again approved legislation to ban a controversial late-term abortion procedure but fell narrowly short of the two-thirds majority that would be required to override a promised veto by President Clinton. In what officials said was probably the Senate’s first vote ever on the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortions, the Senate also voted 51 to 47 to go on record endorsing the Roe vs. Wade decision as “an important constitutional right” that should not be overturned. Forty-five of the Senate’s 54 Republicans voted against the proposal sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, and supported by all but two Democrats. Democrats used this non-binding vote to claim that
Republicans were using the late-term abortion issue as a smokescreen to mask an assault on abortion rights of all kinds. Republicans denied the charge and described Harkin's proposal as a “distraction” aimed at diverting attention from the procedure that opponents call “partial-birth abortion.

The vote on the late-term abortion bill was 63 to 34, with 49 Republicans and 14 Democrats supporting it and 31 Democrats and three Republicans opposing it.  Counting absentees, the bill's backers registered a net gain of one vote since it came up for vote last year but were still at least one and probably two votes short of the 67 needed to assure a veto override.  Among those who did not vote yesterday was Senator John H. Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, who has previously voted against the measure.

Ohio's Republic Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich both voted for final passage of the late term abortion ban and against the Roe vs. Wade endorsement.

Speaking on the Senate floor, DeWine asked: "To what depths has the American conscience sunk? When it comes to abortion, is there nothing to which we will say, 'No stop.' Can we never draw a line and say,'We won't allow that?'... Partial birth abortion is a very clear matter of right and wrong--good versus evil."

Voinovich urged a ban on "what I refer to as human infanticide."  He said late-term abortions were "never medically necessary.   If a mother really needs an abortion, she has alternatives available to her that are not as torturous as partial-birth abortion."

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, would ban a procedure, known medically as intact dilation and extraction, under which a physician pulls the fetus out of the birth canal feet first then punctures the head, removes the brain and collapses the skull.  The fetus is then removed vaginally.

It would make it a felony punishable by a fine and up to two years in prison for a physician to employ the procedure unless it is "necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by physical disorder, illness or injury."  The woman would not be subject to prosecution.

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