Anna LaSalle


Political Science 1

Partial Birth Abortion Ban

        In the United States a fierce battle has been fought for years over the issue of abortion. Since the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade which declared it unconstitutional to make laws against abortions, Conservatives have been fighting to overturn the decision, while Liberals have been fighting to retain the right to choose. In the past several years, a new issue has come up in drawing the line of abortion laws: partial birth abortions. Only a few weeks ago, President Bush signed a bill prohibiting partial birth abortions. This gives a perfect example of how our legislative process works and it will be interesting to see in the upcoming months how the law is enacted and what kind of opposition it will face, judicial or otherwise.

        The issue of partial birth abortions really began to come into the public sphere in 1993, when the National Right to Live Committee (a strong anti-abortion public interest group) got hold of information from Dr. Martin Haskell, an Ohio abortionist) who described in great detail how to go about performing the procedure (, 11/10/03.). The procedure is an abortion “…in which a physician deliberately and intentionally… delivers a living unborn child’s body until either the entire baby’s head is outside the body of the mother, or any part of the baby’s trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother and only the head remains inside the womb… punctures the back of the child’s skull and removes the baby’s brains” (, 9/30/03). The efforts to ban partial birth abortions began to really go into action in 1995 after a Republican takeover of Congress (, 7/8/03). After several attempts passed by Congress but vetoed by the President Clinton, Congress has finally been successful in enacting a ban on partial birth abortions. The ban says that this act is a “gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary and should be prohibited” (, 9/30/03) and any doctor that performs this procedure will be fined and/or imprisoned for up to two years (, 9/30/03).

                The Partial Abortion Ban was presented to Congress on February 13, 2003 and was passed in the Senate on October 21, 2003 by a vote of 64-33, and in the House on October 2, 2003 by a vote of 281-142 and was finally signed by President Bush on November 5, 2003 (, 11/17/03). Behind the bill there are both groups of support and opposition. Supporting the bill are many conservative anti-abortion groups such as National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and American Life League (, 11/10/03) who hope to pave the way to more anti-abortion laws. The opposition consists of numerous pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood, National Abortion Federation, and Naral Pro-Choice America (, 10/21/03) who hope to continue to protect the right for women to choose.

The major controversy surrounding the Ban lies not in the facts of the Ban itself, but in whether or not the Ban is constitutional. Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress voted strongly for the Ban. The opposition felt that the Ban could be an infringement on the constitutional right to privacy in the fourteenth amendment used in Roe v. Wade and because it failed to include an exception for cases to preserve the mother’s health (, 9/30/03). Supporters of the Ban, however, said that “A child that is completely born is a full, legal person entitled to constitutional protections afforded to a ‘person’ under the United States Constitution” (, 9/30/03).

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For as long as abortion has been widely used practice, Conservatives have been opposed to it and traditionally, the Republican Party has been a supporter of this ideology. The case of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban is no exception. The bill was primarily written and sponsored by Congressman Steve Chabot from Ohio and was sponsored by Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania; both of whom are Republicans. (, 11/17/03).

The Republican Party’s sponsorship and strong support for the ban will result in their receiving credit for it which in some cases will work to their benefit. This will result in ...

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