House Debating Partial Birth Abortion Ban

July 7, 2008 - 7:25 PM

( - The House has begun debate on a bill designed to ban partial birth abortions. President Clinton has vetoed such bills in the past, and both times, the Senate has sustained those vetoes.

The bill being debated today would punish those convicted of performing them with either a fine or a two-year prison sentence or both.

The bill describes partial birth abortion in clinical terms, as a procedure "in which the person performing the abortion deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers some portion of an intact living fetus until the fetus is partially outside the body of the mother, for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the fetus while the fetus is partially outside the body of the mother."

In fact, a baby is partially delivered feet-first into the birth canal, at which point an incision is made at the base of the skull and the brain tissue removed. Then the baby's remains are completely delivered and discarded.

Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX) said he opposes late term abortions, but, "When the health of the mother is at risk in tragic cases, that choice should be made by a woman and her doctor, not by politicians in Washington, DC...We have no right in this Congress to make that health decision for other people's wives and other peoples daughter's," Edwards said.

Congressman Joseph Pitts (R-PA), one who supports the late-term abortion ban, said it's clear that "reasonable and thinking Americans want this ban to become law."

"A few extremists continue to stand in the way," he continued. And then, in a statement that inflamed some of his colleagues, he suggested that women might go get a partial birth abortion just because "they're having a bad day."

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) blasted such an idea:

"I think that it is absolutely a horror for the American people to be told by any member of Congress that American women may have a bad day and decide to have a partial birth abortion. That is certainly not the fact and that is certainly demeaning to every woman in this country," Tauscher said.

"Let's not demean American women," Tauscher continued, "by suggesting that because they're having a bad day they are going to get rid of a very precious child. Let's ban late-term abortions. But there are people here unfortunately that will twist the facts for their own political gain. This is a shameful day for this House."

Congressman Tom Coburn (R-OK), a doctor by trade, criticized Tauscher for presenting an inaccurate "representation of partial birth abortion."

He in cases where the baby is "non-viable," such a procedure is sometimes done only for the convenience of the abortionist. "It is not being done for the safety and health of a woman. Because if in fact it were for the safety and health of the woman, they would terminate the pregnancy in a very much different way. They would not put at risk her reproductive future," Coburn said, noting the dangers to the mother of late-term abortion.

Abortion rights' advocates say the bill's language is too broad, and they fear it will eventually be used in an attempt to ban all abortions, early or late.

Supporters of the ban say if Americans knew how gruesome the procedure is - "infanticide," many called it - they would rise in support of banning it.