ABORTION: House Overrides Veto Of ‘Partial-Birth’ Ban
"The House of Representatives rang with hot rhetoric and cold political calculation [yesterday] as it voted to override President Clinton's veto of a ban on" controversial "partial-birth" abortions," the Chicago Tribune reports (Neikirk, 7/24). The House voted 296-132 to override the veto. The Los Angeles Times reports that 77 Democrats and 219 Republicans voted to override the ban, and eight Republicans joined 123 Democrats and the chamber's only independent in support of the veto. Debate on the issue "broke no new ground," and the override was "not a surprise" (Chen/Rubin, 7/24). However, the measure faces an uncertain future in the Senate this fall. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that senators who oppose the ban still need three votes to secure an override of Clinton's veto. "We face an uphill battle there," said Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL), chair of the House Judiciary constitution subcommittee. "But we're still trying and I expect the Senate to vote on this in September. If we don't succeed there, we'll be back in the next Congress. We are not going to give up" (Hess, 7/24). However, the Houston Chronicle reports that the vote "was largely symbolic since even supporters of the ban concede that they do not have enough support in the Senate to override the veto" (McDonald, 7/23).
All Those Opposed
Clinton opposes the ban, which lawmakers passed last fall, because he says it does not provide adequate exceptions to protect a mother's health, only allowing the procedure when it would save the mother's life (Alvarez, New York Times, 7/24). And the bill's critics on Capitol Hill say the late-term abortion procedure "is sometimes the only alternative to protect the health and fertility" of women in crisis pregnancies. "The bill targets the most vulnerable women, women who want to be mothers who have found that something has gone terribly wrong to either them or their babies," said Rep. Vic Fazio, (D-CA) (Black, Boston Globe, 7/24).
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Gloria Feldt harshly criticized the House's override, and called for more attention to the family planning programs that reduce the need for abortions. "We commend those members of the House who opposed this dangerous and unprecedented intrusion into medical practice for their willingness to stand firm in protecting women's lives and health and the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship," she said (PPFA release, 7/24). Center for Reproductive Law and Policy President Janet Benshoof called the partial-birth van a "violation of women's rights" and accused legislators of "using misleading tactics and rhetoric" (CRLP release, 7/24). However, Randy Tate, head of the Christian Coalition, said, "The one reason why the United States still maintains the most extreme and most destructive abortion pogrom in the Western world is a man named William Jefferson Clinton. Today the people's representatives sent him a message -- his support for infanticide will not stand" (Christian Coalition release, 7/23).
Waging Political War
Politics played a significant role in yesterday's vote, as legislators attempt to play up their positions in preparation for the November elections. "Republicans think the issue can rouse their conservative base to go out and vote and divide the Democrats," CNN's Candy Crowley reports ("Inside Politics," 7/23). "The GOP leadership has been waging war on abortion rights since taking over this House in 1994," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). "This is the 93rd vote on reproductive rights in less than three years. The message is, let's ban every abortion, month by month, procedure by procedure" (New York Times, 7/24). "This is politics pure and simple and it is about as indecent as this House can get," Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-TX) (Houston Chronicle, 7/24). Read all the latest abortion and reproductive health news in the Daily Reproductive Health Report -- available free online through the Kaiser Family Foundation's website (www.kff.org).