The full Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the D&X abortion procedure on March 11. Participating in the panel were Kate Michaelman, NARAL President; Gloria Feldt, Planned Parenthood President; Vicki Sapporta, National Abortion Federation Executive Director; National Coalition of Abortion Providers President Renee Chelian; Dave Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee; and Helen Avare of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in addition to an anti-choice doctor, two women who had the procedure and one who did not. The Senate and House have reintroduced bills that would ban this form of abortion except in cases where no other procedure would save the life of the woman. President Clinton vetoed the ban in April of 1996 because it made no exception for the health of the woman. On March 12, the House full Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up HR 929, referred to as the “partial birth abortion” ban bill.
Opponents of choice are taking up the debate on the state level as well. Republican-controlled New York State Senate voted 40-19 on March 10 to pass legislation banning the D&X late term abortion procedure. Doctors who performed the surgery would face up to four years in prison unless the life of the woman was threatened. Health Committee Chairman Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said he expected the measure to be defeated in the Assembly where most members of the Health Committee oppose the ban. Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver said he would leave the fate of the bill in the hands of the Health Committee and that it won’t be considered unless exceptions are made for the life and health of the woman. Proponents of the measure have said they will push for a vote by the entire house to force the measure to the Assembly floor. Opponents of the ban maintain that its wording is vague enough that it could potentially ban other types of abortions including a procedure used during the second trimester to save a woman’s health. Gov. George Pataki has said he would sign the measure.