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Senators, NRLC Assail Senate Democratic Leadership for Smothering Bill to Ban Partial-Birth Abortion

Oct 3, 2002 | LegUpdates

WASHINGTON (Oct. 3, 2002) – Sixty-one out of 100 U.S. senators are on record in support of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act – a bill that has already passed the House of Representatives and that President Bush is eager to sign.

Left to right, pro-life Senators Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ar.) at October 2, 2002 press conference urging Senate action on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Left to right, pro-life Senators Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ar.) at October 2, 2002 press conference urging Senate action on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Nevertheless, when the two-year 107th Congress ends soon, the bill to ban partial-birth abortions will die because a one-seat Democratic majority gives pro-abortion Democratic Senate leaders the power to obstruct even bills that have majority support.

That was the message at a press conference on Capitol Hill on October 2, at which representatives from NRLC and other pro-life organizations joined six members of Congress in lambasting Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) for smothering the bill without so much as a debate or a roll call vote.

Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), the prime Senate sponsor of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, said it was clear that Daschle and other Democratic leaders will not permit a vote on the measure.

“We are blocked,” Santorum said.  He explained that Senate Democrats had made it clear to him that no vote on the bill will be permitted.

Six days earlier, Santorum took the Senate floor to formally propose an agreement under which any amendments proposed by pro-abortion senators would be quickly considered and voted on, followed immediately by a vote on passage of the bill.  The proposal was rejected by Senate Democratic Whip Harry Reid (D-Nv.), who was managing the floor for Senate Democrats.  Reid cited objections by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) and “a number” of others.

The Democrats currently control the Senate by a single seat, 51-49.  The Congress is expected to adjourn around mid-October, allowing lawmakers to campaign full time for several weeks before the November 5 general election – an election in which 34 Senate seats are up.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (H.R. 4965) passed the House on July 24 by a vote of 274-151.  President Bush strongly supports the bill.

NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson pointed out that 61 senators either voted for the bill in 1999, when the Senate last considered the issue, or publicly pledged to support the legislation as they campaigned for Senate seats they won in the 2000 election.

Therefore, “if the ban on partial-birth abortions is not signed into law before Congress adjourns, it will be entirely due to a single factor: the one-vote majority by which the Democrats control the Senate,” NRLC’s Johnson said at the press conference.  (To read Mr. Johnson’s complete statement, click HERE.)

Santorum made it clear that he also believed the bill was going to die because of the power of the majority party leadership to set the agenda for the Senate.

“I just think that people need to understand that elections matter,” Santorum

said, adding, “That’s the decision that people in Arkansas and South Dakota and every state in which there is a Senate election will have to consider.”

(To hear recorded excerpts from Senator Santorum’s remarks, click HERE. — this requires Windows Media Player or other software that plays mp3 audio files.)

“Partial-birth abortion is a barbaric procedure that only the most extreme abortion proponents defend,” said Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-Ar.).  “Now we have a President who has indicated he would sign a partial-birth abortion ban, but a narrow minority in the Senate refuses to let it come up for a vote or even debate.”

(Congress passed bans on partial-birth abortion twice before, but both were successfully vetoed by President Bill Clinton.)

Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) made an impassioned statement in support of the bill.

“The support exists in the Senate to ban partial-birth abortions but a vocal minority is holding it up,” Voinovich said, noting, “Several pieces of pro-life legislation have passed the House, including the ban on cloning and legislation to protect unborn victims of violence, yet the Senate has acted on none of them.”

The same point was driven home by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ks.), who said, “Unfortunately, the Democrats in the Senate refuse to allow a public hearing on the Senate floor on the practice of performing an abortion on a child who has been partially born.  They also refuse to give a fair hearing on other issues of vast importance to our common humanity — issues like human cloning.”

Also present to speak in support of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was Senator Wayne Allard (R-Co.).

Republican Congressman John Thune joined the five senators to call for action on the ban.

“How we treat the most vulnerable among us says a lot about who we are as a people,” Thune said.  “We like to think of ourselves as a moral, civilized culture, but here we are again, attempting to end a practice opposed by a vast majority of the population, yet stalled by a handful of senators.”

Thune is challenged incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Johnson in the November 5 general election.  Senator Johnson voted to pass the ban in 1999, but only after supporting an unsuccessful “killer amendment.”

Interviewed by a congressional newsletter after the press conference, Senator Johnson rejected Thune’s call for immediate action on the bill.

“You can’t just bring legislation up out of the blue,” Senator Johnson said.

In fact, however, under Senate rules, no committee action is required on the bill, which is already on the “Senate calendar,” an official list of measures eligible for floor action at any time.

Representatives of Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council also made statements at the event.  In a written statement, Cathy Cleaver, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged Daschle to act on the ban before Congress adjourns.

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