D&X / PBA Procedures:
Failed attempts to pass a federal law
to ban the
practice: 1997 (Cont'd) to 2001.
This is a continuation of Part 1
Reporting on these bills by the media and by conservative Christian
organizations appeared very imprecise and confusing. 1,2 The
Democratic bill is often described as allowing D&Xs for simple health
reasons. e.g.: if the woman is depressed about the pregnancy, or she had
suddenly decided in her 8th month of pregnancy that a baby would be too great an
economic or emotional burden to handle. Such reporting ignores the fact that
the Democratic version of the bill would not allow a D&X procedure for such simple
health reasons. There would have to be the probability of extremely serious,
grievous and perhaps permanently disabling health damage to the woman.
The American Medical Association went on record as supporting HR 1122. 3 Their AMA's expert panel could not find "any identified situation"
in which a D&X was "the only appropriate procedure to induce abortion."
A hysterotomy is like a Caesarian section It is the one alternative procedure
that could be performed instead of a D&X procedure. It is major surgery which would expose the
woman to the possibility of an infection, would require a longer recovery
period, would leave a scar, and might impact very negatively on future
pregnancies. But it would not involve the partial delivery of a
The AMA is normally opposed to legislation that criminalizes a
medical procedure, but have supported bills "where the procedure was narrowly defined and not medically
indicated." In this case, they decided to support the bill after it
was modified to provide that "any accused physician [had] the right to have his or her conduct
reviewed by the State Medical Board before a criminal trial commenced."
The Republican version of the bill was passed by the House by 295 to 136. A
slightly revised version was passed by the Senate on 1997-MAY-20 by 64 to 36.
Senators repeated the usual charges:
Senator Rick Santorum, (R-PA) said: "This is about infanticide. We worry so
much about the right to choose. What about the right to choose life, to give this baby a
chance.'' [The answer is obvious: allowing the birth to
continue would result in the death or very serious, long term injury to the woman.]
Senator Barbara Boxer, (D-CA) said: ''This bill does harm. Please do not relegate
women to the status that says their life and their health does not matter.''
[Her comment is not particularly rational. All sides in the issue agree that
if the woman's life is in danger, that she should have a D&X. They only disagree about situation where long term disability would result without a D&X.]
The House then agreed to the Senate version by a vote of 296 to 132 on 1997-OCT-8. As
written, the bill would prohibit a D&X in cases where severe injury, massive
health damage or permanent disability would occur to the woman. Because of this,
President Clinton vetoed the bill on 1997-OCT-10.
The bill was returned to the House of Representatives, who voted to override
the President's veto by more than a 2/3 majority on 1998-JUL-23. The Senate's
vote was delayed until SEP-18, presumably to maximize its impact on the fall
elections. Although their vote was 64 to 36 in favor of overriding the veto, it
was an insufficient margin. The vote was unchanged from when they last passed
the bill in 1997-MAY. None of the senators changed their minds. The vote fell
short of a 2/3 majority by 3 votes.
The U.S. Senate debated the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1999
in 1999-OCT. A repetition of
earlier attempts occurred. i.e.:
There would be a consensus in the Senate that D&Xs should be
The bill would have allowed a D&X if it is necessary to save the
life of the woman.
The bill would have allowed a D&X if the fetus is dead.
The bill would not have allowed a D&X if it is needed to prevent very serious, long term, and potentially disabling injury to the
President Clinton indicated that he would refuse to sign the bill into law unless it contained
the above escape clause.
The bill's promoters said that any form of a health clause cannot be included. As Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly states:
"Health is something which is expanded so widely under Supreme Court rulings that it would nullify any prohibition on partial-birth
Democrats brought forth a health clause amendment which would
circumvent the Supreme Court definition "health" and allow D&Xs on live fetuses only in the event of a very serious
disabling injury to the woman. The amendment was defeated.
The bill was passed.
The president vetoed it.
The veto was overridden by the House.
It was passed 63 to 34 by the Senate. This is two votes short of the level needed to overrule a presidential veto.
The level of very serious and long-lasting maternal disability will not increase in the U.S. Near-term and full term fetuses will
continue to be killed via D&X procedures, whenever doctors and pregnant women decide together that they are warranted.
On 2000-APR-5, the House passed the bill 287 to 141. Truth was again the first casualty.
misinformation circulated about the PBA's:
Tom Coburn (R-OK) said:
"We do not believe it is proper to rationalize one moral error with another moral error. The first moral error is attaining an unwanted pregnancy."
Coburn seems to imply that all D&X procedures are performed on women who did not want to have a baby. In the U.S., about half of pregnancies are unintended and half of those are terminated early in pregnancy through abortion. In late pregnancy, when D&X abortions are performed, most are intended pregnancies by women who want a baby. However,their desire is thwarted and a D&X is sometimes needed because of serious medical developments.
"The second moral error is to eliminate that pregnancy because it inconveniences you."
Again, the vast majority of women who are given a D&X or hysterotomy receive it out of necessity. If they didn't really want to be pregnant, essentially all would have had a early abortion.
statement overlooks the fact that the Republicans and Democrats in
Congress and the president all want to create a law that regulates
D&X procedures. The only point of contention is whether a woman
who would be seriously disabled by continuing her pregnancy should be allowed to have the
procedure. A D&X is performed to end a pregnancy that has
gone horribly bad; they are unrelated to pregnancies that are
unwanted, except by coincidence.
Helen Alvare, spokesperson for the National Conference of
Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference, said:
continued to increase our support in Congress with every vote. We have
continued to reach pro-abortion members of Congress who have never
voted with us before."
To our knowledge, there are no
"pro-abortion" members of Congress. There are many
"pro-lifers" who want to reduce or eliminateaccess to abortion;
there are many "pro-choicers" who want to give women the
ability to choose to have an early abortion, and access to later abortions should circumstances warrent. There are no
"pro-abortion" members of Congress -- persons who actually promote abortion.
Carrie Earll, spokesperson for the fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family said
gruesome. It's brutal, and it is infanticide. It is not abortion...We're
not going to role over and say, 'OK, well, we'll just let you go ahead
and keep brutally killing late-term babies like this.' "
D&X procedure is not infanticide because it is performed on a
fetus which has not been born -- generally to save the life of the
mother, or because the fetus is dead. There are alternative methods of terminating
advanced pregnancies that have
gone terribly wrong. However, they place the woman at greater risk.
In his 2000-AUG-3 acceptance speech as presidential nominee for the
Republican Party, George W Bush indicated that, as president, he would
sign into law a bill that outlawed D&X procedures.
Representative Steve Chabot, (R-OH) introduced a revamped anti-D&X
bill. Debate over this bill was like those of previous years:
The vast majority in congress will favor allowing D&X procedures in
those very rare instances where it is required to save the life of a
The vast majority will favor prohibiting D&X procedures in those
very rare instances when it is merely the wish of the woman to terminate
Democrats and Republicans will be split over the use of a
D&X procedure which are needed to save the woman from permanent and
seriously disabling injuries. Democrats will favor allowing the woman to
choose whether to have the procedure; Republicans will favor forbidding
The bill never emerged from Congress.
In its decision to declare the Nebraska state D&X law unconstitutional, the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled "that significant medical authority supports
the proposition that in some circumstances [D&X procedure] would be the
safest procedure" for pregnant women who wish to undergo an abortion. 4
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- National Right to Life, "Clinton Again Stands in the Way of Ban On Brutal
Partial-Birth Abortion Procedure," 1997-MAY-19 at: http://www.nrlc.org/release970519.html
- Concerned Women for America, "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act Passes House!"
1997-OCT-8, at: http://www.cwfa.org/archive/pressreleases/press_hD&X1097.html
- P. John Seward, M.D., Exec. VP of the American Medical Association,
Letter to The Honorable Rick Santorum, 1997-MAY-19, at: http://www.nationalcenter.inter.net/AbortionAMA597.html
- "Stenberg v. Carhart," 530 U.S. 914, 932 (2000).
Copyright © 1996 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Last updated: 2010-JUN-27
Author: B.A. Robinson