The Senate gave final approval yesterday to a bill that bans safe abortion procedures. The so-called “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003,” which the House approved 281 to 142 and the Senate passed 64 to 34, will now go to President Bush to sign. However, abortion rights advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the National Abortion Federation have vowed to immediately challenge the constitutionality of the bill in court.
In the 30 years since Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to have an abortion, Congress has never banned a specific abortion procedure. The term “partial-birth” is an inaccurate and inflammatory term created by the anti-abortion movement, and it neither refers to any particular medical procedure nor receives recognition from the medical community, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women’s Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Public Health Association. Furthermore, the bill does not include an exception to protect the life of the woman. The US Supreme Court overturned a similar law in Stenberg v. Carhart in 2000.
This is “a very sad day for the women of America,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), one of the leaders of the opposition to the bill, according to the New York Times. “Congress has turned its back on America’s women, their right to privacy, the right to choose,” Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) told the Times “America’s women are now second-class citizens.”
Women’s rights advocates are outraged at the Senate’s passage of the abortion ban and are assuring supporters of reproductive rights that feminists won’t stand for any ploy to send us back to pre-Roe days when women were dying from illegal abortions. Kim Gandy, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), stated, “This abortion procedures ban is a political game in which lawmakers in the pocket of the anti-abortion rights movement are using women’s health and lives as the pawns to further a regressive agenda … This bill – now on its way to Bush’s desk – is deceptively named and another step in the plan to ban all abortion.”