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D&X / PBA Procedures

Attempts to pass a federal law in 2002 & 2003

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Attempts to pass an anti-D&X bill during 2002:

On 2002-JUL-17, the House Judiciary Committee voted 20 to 8 to pass an anti-D&X bill to the House. From the reaction of the Family Research Council, (FRC) it seems to be a precise copy of earlier legislation. It would prohibited a D&X procedure if the woman wanted it to avoid very serious and/or permanent disability. The bill stalled in the Senate, which the FRC calls "the graveyard of pro-life legislation." 1

On 2002-JUL-24, the House voted 274 to 151 to pass the next Partial Birth Abortion Act. The corresponding bill for the Senate later expired at the close of the 107th Congressional term in 2002-OCT. According to a news release from the Family Research Council, supporters of the bill "say the short-lived legislation would have been instrumental in preventing the death of millions of nearly-born infants." It is difficult to understand how this estimate could be true. Considering:

bullet The current rate of about 3,000 D&X procedures a year in the U.S., and

bullet That many of the fetuses involved in Partial Birth Abortion procedures are either already dead or would have die quickly no matter what procedure were used, then

it would take millennia of time to save a million fetuses. The Family Research Council also stated that "research...found the procedure to be extremely hazardous to women's health." It is difficult to accept this as a valid criticism because state and provincial medical associations prohibit this procedure unless it is required to avoid the death of the woman or a serious risk to her health. 2

On about 2002-NOV-8, on the Fundamentalist Christian network American Family Radio, Trent Lott said that passing a law banning partial birth abortion is a priority for the Republican party in the Senate. He said: "I will call it up, we will pass it, and the president will sign it. I am making that commitment- you can write it down." 3

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Attempts to pass an anti-D&X bill during 2003:

bullet2003: Congress reconvened in January. With the executive branch of the government in Republican hands, and a strong Republican majority in both houses, a  Partial Birth Abortion Act similar to previous bills was expected to experience speedy passage in Congress and be rapidly signed into law by the President. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced the next version of the Act (S. 3). Debate on it started in 2003-MAR. 4 Three amendments were offered:

bullet Senator Richard Durbin (D) introduced an amendment to allow D&X procedure if needed to prevent the woman from suffering extremely heavy health consequences, such as permanent disability. Mike Schwartz, of the conservative agency Concerned Women for America said: "A vote for the Durbin amendment is a vote to kill the partial-birth abortion ban ... and that means that means we'd be finished with this until the next Congress." The amendment was defeated. If it had passed, then Senator Santorum was expected to withdraw his bill. He said: "It really is a phony amendment that wipes the whole ban out, and we hope that it will be defeated." This appears to be an admission that D&X procedures that the bill would prohibit are mainly performed to prevent very serious, disabling health problems.

bullet Senator Patty Murray, (D-WA) offered an amendment on 2003-MAR-11 aimed at reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, and thus the abortion rate. The amendment would have funded the dissemination of information in schools about emergency contraception -- the "morning after" pill. It also would have required hospitals " including religious hospitals " to dispense emergency contraception to those patients who request it. The amendment was defeated.

bullet Senator Tom Harkin, D-IA, is offered a non-binding resolution that reaffirms Roe v. Wade -- the 1973 Supreme Court decision which legalized all early abortions. It expressed "the sense of the Senate that Roe v. Wade was appropriate and secures an important constitutional right and should not be over-turned." This amendment also defeated by a 52-46 vote.

The House bill states that:

"The gruesome and inhumane nature of the partial-birth abortion procedure and its disturbing similarity to the killing of a newborn infant promotes a complete disregard for infant human life that can only be countered by prohibition of the procedure....Congress finds that partial-birth abortion is never medically indicated to preserve the health of the mother; is in fact unrecognized as a valid abortion procedure by the mainstream medical community; poses additional health risks to the mother; blurs the line between abortion and infanticide in the killing of a partially-born child just inches from birth; and confuses the role of the physician in childbirth and should, therefore, be banned." 5

The bill defines "partial birth abortion" very broadly to include all cases where a living fetus is intentionally killed while partly or completely outside the body of the mother. The age of the fetus and whether it is viable is not a consideration. The law could conceivably result in a criminal action against a physician performing a lifesaving operation on a fetus in utero, if the fetus did not survive. Such operations are now being performed to avoid complications on a spina bifida or hydroencephalic fetus.

The Senate approved the main bill by a vote of 65 to 32. It passed the House of Representatives, where only 139 members opposed it. 6 As of 2003-JUN-4, the two versions of the bill were still not reconciled. President George W. Bush had promised to sign it into law. On 2003-JUN-4, he issued a statement saying: "I applaud the House for passing legislation banning partial-birth abortions. Passage of this important legislation is a shared priority that will help build a culture of life in America. I urge Congress to quickly resolve any differences and send me the final bill as soon as possible so that I can sign it into law." 7

As of 2003-JUL-21, the House and Senate bills still had not been harmonized. Pro-choicers in the Senate initially refused to agree with the selection of conferees to the House-Senate conference which is needed to reconcile the two bills.

A serious problem facing the conference was a pro-choice amendment that was added to the Senate version of the bill, SA 260. It says, in part:

bullet  "It is the sense of the Senate that--
(1) the decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113 (1973)) was appropriate and secures an important constitutional right; and
(2) such decision should not be overturned."

The House version contained no such amendment. Resolving this turned out to be simple. With a Republican majority on conference, the amendment was simply deleted on 2003-SEP-30. 8 The House passed the compromise bill by a vote of 281 to 142 on OCT-2. The Senate approved it 63 to 34 on 2003-OCT-21.

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Bill signed into law:

It was sent to the President, who signed it into law on the afternoon of 2003-NOV-5. He said:

"In passing this legislation, members of the House and Senate made a studied decision based upon compelling evidence. The best case against partial birth abortion is a simple description of what happens and to whom it happens. It involves the partial delivery of a live boy or girl, and a sudden, violent end of that life. Our nation owes its children a different and better welcome. The bill I am about to sign protecting innocent new life from this practice reflects the compassion and humanity of America.

"In the course of the congressional debate, the facts became clear. Each year, thousands of partial birth abortions are committed. As Doctor C. Everett Koop, the pediatrician and former Surgeon General has pointed out, the majority of partial birth abortions are not required by medical emergency. As Congress has found, the practice is widely regarded within the medical profession as unnecessary, not only cruel to the child, but harmful to the mother, and a violation of medical ethics."

"The facts about partial birth abortion are troubling and tragic, and no lawyer's brief can make them seem otherwise. By acting to prevent this practice, the elected branches of our government have affirmed a basic standard of humanity, the duty of the strong to protect the weak. The wide agreement amongst men and women on this issue, regardless of political party, shows that bitterness in political debate can be overcome by compassion and the power of conscience. And the executive branch will vigorously defend this law against any who would try to overturn it in the courts."

"America stands for liberty, for the pursuit of happiness and for the unalienable right of life. And the most basic duty of government is to defend the life of the innocent. Every person, however frail or vulnerable, has a place and a purpose in this world. Every person has a special dignity. This right to life cannot be granted or denied by government, because it does not come from government, it comes from the Creator of life."

"In the debate about the rights of the unborn, we are asked to broaden the circle of our moral concern. We're asked to live out our calling as Americans. We're asked to honor our own standards, announced on the day of our founding in the Declaration of Independence. We're asked by our convictions and tradition and compassion to build a culture of life, and make this a more just and welcoming society. And today, we welcome vulnerable children into the care and protection of Americans."

"The late Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey once said that: when we look to the unborn child, the real issue is not when life begins, but when love begins. This is the generous and merciful spirit of our country at its best. This spirit is reflected in the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which I am now honored to sign into law. God bless." 9

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "PBA ban up in the House, DOA in Senate," Washington Update, Family Research Council, 2002-JUL-9
  2. Ken Connor, "Obituary: PBA Ban R.I.P.," Family Research Council, Washington Update, 2002-OCT-31.
  3. Newsletter, Massachusetts Family Institute, 2002-NOV-8.
  4. David Brody, "Senate Takes Up Partial-Birth Abortion Bill," Family News in Focus, 2003-MAR-11, at:
  5. "Stenberg v. Carhart," 530 U.S. 914, 932 (2000).
  6. Ken Connor, "Infanticide apologists unfit to serve," Family Research Council, 2003-JUN-5, at:
  7. "Partial Birth Abortion Ban (HR 760) Passes House!," Faith 2 Action, at:
  8. Jim Abrams, "House and Senate agree on bill banning abortion procedure," Associated Press, 2003-SEP-30, at:
  9. "An Historic Day for Life," Family Research Council, Washington Update, 2003-NOV-5.

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Copyright © 2002 to 2010. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated: 2010-JUN-27

Author: B.A. Robinson
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