‘PARTIAL-BIRTH’ ABORTION: Override Vote Fails In Senate
The Senate failed to override President Clinton's veto of a ban on "partial-birth" abortion Friday, voting 64-36 in favor of an override, three votes shy of the needed two-thirds majority, the AP/Washington Post reports. The 64 votes in favor of the override were cast by 13 Democrats and 51 Republicans, and the 36 votes in favor of sustaining Clinton's veto were cast by 32 Democrats and four Republicans. The Senate also failed to override Clinton's veto last year, "when [it] could muster only 58 votes." In response to the failed override attempt, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) told a meeting of the Christian Coalition, "This is not the end of the battle" (9/19). The Boston Globe reports that Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), the bill's sponsor, said, "We have dug the foundation of our ability to turn votes of those who are in office. The future of this really lies in the American public and what they do in the next election." The Globe notes that "[d]espite the proximity of the November elections and an aggressive lobbying campaign by supporters of the ban, not a single senator switched position on the issue." The four Republicans who voted against the ban were John Chafee (RI), Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME) and Jim Jeffords (VT) (Black, 9/19).
Wait Until Next Year
The Los Angeles Times reports that Lott asked for the Christian Coalition's "political activism on the issue," saying that "next year's vote could be different if seats held by Democrats are turned over to Republicans in November's election." He pointed to races in California, Wisconsin, Washington, Kentucky and Illinois, in all of which, except Kentucky, "abortion rights candidates are squaring off against candidates who oppose abortion" (Healy, 9/19). The New York Times reports that "[t]he most politically vulnerable Democratic senators -- Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, Barbara Boxer of California and Patty Murray of Washington -- are all fierce supporters of abortion rights. Abortion opponents hope to pick up those seats and tip the balance in the Senate to enact the ban" (Seelye, 9/19). The New York Times reports that the defeat of the three senators, "could cost the president his protection on a policy that has kept many liberal women steadfastly in his corner." National Right to Life Committee Lobbyist Douglas Johnson "said his side expected a net gain ... of at least three senators who would vote with abortion opponents on this issue" (9/19).
Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, on the failed override attempt: "Today, 36 members of the U.S. Senate showed true courage by voting to sustain the president's veto of an abortion ban that posed a serious threat to women's health. ... We should turn our attention to what we can all agree upon -- real solutions to the problems of unintended pregnancy. We challenge members of Congress to act now to ensure that family planning programs that are proven to help reduce the need for abortion ... do not fall victim to political posturing" (release, 9/18). Wanda Franz, president of the National Right To Life Committee, commented: "It is appalling that Senators Boxer and Feinstein again voted with Bill Clinton and Al Gore to allow these brutal partial-birth abortions to continue. If three new pro-life senators are elected in November, this bill will become law next year, despite the opposition of Bill Clinton and Al Gore" (release, 9/18). Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League: "I applaud those members of the U.S. Senate today who voted to protect women's health. Your courageous stand against H.R. 1122 is in step with the majority of Americans who believe that this private medical decision should be made by women in consultation with their doctors -- not by politicians and government" (release, 9/18). American Life League President Judie Brown commented that it's time for the nation to "turn its attention away from so-called partial-birth abortion and refocus on the genuine pro-life goal -- a constitutional amendment that protects all human beings from fertilization on" (release, 9/18). Janet Benshoof, president of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, which has challenged many of the state-level partial-birth bans, said that the "vote reveals the extent to which Congressional leadership has become beholden to the Christian Right, a strident minority that has made abortion a litmus test for its political support." She said, "By timing this vote to coincide with the Christian Coalition's 'Road to Victory' lobbying days, Senate leadership has sent a message that it's willing to sacrifice women's constitutional rights to mollify extremists" (release, 9/18).