In a victory for abortion-rights advocates, House and Senate negotiators agreed yesterday to include the Schumer-Hatch amendment in the bankruptcy bill that has been stalled in conference for about a year. The agreement ensures that anti-abortion extremists cannot declare bankruptcy in order to avoid paying fines assessed for threats or perpetration of clinic violence. The Feminist Majority has joined the National Abortion Rights and Action League, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Abortion Federation, the National Women’s Law Center, the National Organization for Women as well as many women members of Congress in advocating for the bill. “This is a victory for women,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) who has been a leading proponent of the provision, told the LA Times. “The agreement we reached today ensures those who use violence to close clinics can’t use bankruptcy as a shield.”
Declaring bankruptcy is a strategy that has recently been attempted by a number of anti-abortion extremists, including six of the defendants in the recently upheld Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA). These extremists, along with Operation Rescue leaders such as Randall Terry, Joseph Foreman, and Joseph Scheidler, will now be held responsible for penalties levied against them.
The bulk of the bill, which was agreed upon months ago but stalled when Republicans refused to agree to the Schumer-Hatch amendment, is viewed as a handout to credit card companies by requiring that more people who file for bankruptcy are not completely exempted from their outstanding debts. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) calls the bill terrible for consumers and working families trying to rebuild, according to the LA Times. The House and Senate could vote on the bill next week, before Congress begins a monthlong summer recess. President Bush has indicated that we will sign the bill, according to the New York Times.