The bill would have allowed a physician to defend the use of a D&X procedure if "the partial-birth abortion was necessary to save the life of the woman upon whom it was performed, and no other form of abortion would suffice for that purpose." [In most cases, a hysterotomy could be performed. However, it is major surgery, involves much higher infection risks to the woman, and can have a severe negative impact on future pregnancies.]
Senate hearings were held, starting in mid 1995-NOV. An enormous amount of conflicting and mutually exclusive testimony was given (US Senate Hearing Report 104-260). As in war, truth is often the first casualty in controversial religious topics:
These people are experts. Some appear to be either not telling the truth, or unaware of reality. Further, it seems certain that many were consciously lying in order to promote their religious or political positions.
Pro-choice groups lobbied Congress to modify the bill so that it would allow the procedure in those rare cases where the woman needed a D&X in order to avoid very serious, permanent health problems. Senator Boxer (1995-DEC-7) proposed an amendment that would have allowed D&Xs "after viability where, in the medical judgment of the attending physician, the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the woman or avert serious adverse health consequences to the woman." Ex-Surgeon General C Everett Koop said that this amendment was a "complete sham" It would "not outlaw a single one of the thousands of partial-birth abortions performed each year." 1 Dr. Koop appears to believe that all D&Xs are done to avoid serious adverse health consequences to the woman or to save her life.
This amendment was defeated.
The House bill was passed in late 1995 with votes 288 to 139 and 286 to 139, largely with Republican party support. The Senate passed the bill 54-44 on 1995-DEC-7. President Clinton wrote of having "studied and prayed about this issue...for many months," of finding the procedure "very disturbing," and of seeking "common ground...that respects the views of those -- including myself -- who object to this particular procedure." He indicated that if there were a provision in the bill like Senator Boxer had proposed, that he would have signed it into law. But he felt that too many women would be disabled or have their long term health seriously damaged if the bill were made law. Because it would not "allow women to protect themselves from serious threats to their health," he vetoed the bill on 1996-APR-10.
An attempt to overturn the presidential veto passed in the house but failed in the Senate. The vote was 57 to 41 in favor of passage, which was short of the 2/3 majority vote required to override a presidential veto. Some in the pro-life movement have consistently misrepresented the President's stand by incorrectly stating that the President wanted very late term D&Xs to be legal for simple "health" reasons. The term "health" had been defined by the courts very broadly, to include suicidal ideation, depression, etc. In fact, he wanted a clause to protect women from:
In 1996-DEC, President Clinton again declared he would sign an amended ban on partial-birth abortions - one that would criminalize D&Xs except when they are required to prevent devastating, long-term health consequences to the woman. This is a much narrower criteria than "the Roe/Doe definition of health," specifies.
Many pro-life leaders continue to say that President Clinton is misrepresenting the facts. Some incorrectly state that he is using the all-inclusive Roe/Doe definition of health. 2 Some state that his version would stop almost no D&Xs. The latter statement appears to be an admission by pro-life groups that essentially all D&Xs are performed to avoid overwhelming, long-term damage to the woman's health or to save her life.
A bill banning D&Xs was reintroduced into the House in early 1997. Its wording was essentially unchanged from the earlier version. D&Xs would be criminal acts at any stage of pregnancy, unless required to save the life of the woman. President Clinton again threatened to re-veto the legislation in its original form. The bill easily passed through the House in 1997-MAR-20 as HR 1122 with a vote of 295 to 136.
According to the Family Research Council's 1997-APR-3 newsletter by Gary Bauer, a consortium of pro-life agencies planned to promote the creation of a series of federal laws. They would:
In 1997-MAY, two D&X bills were introduced into the Senate.
A White House spokesperson stated that President Clinton would sign the latter bill if it were passed by Congress.
There was a large degree of consensus in the Senate and House on the conditions under which D&Xs should be outlawed. There was a general agreement that:
A major difference of opinion exist in situations where the life of the woman is not in jeopardy, but her health would be "grievously damaged" unless she was given a D&X procedure. These are situations in which the woman would be severely disabled or would suffer very serious long term health problems. The Republican bill would not allow a D&X in this case; the Democratic bill would permit the procedure if the woman and her physician decided that it was the least-worse option.
This is continued in Part 2
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