WASHINGTON — The House voted decisively Thursday for the first ban of an abortion procedure since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that women have a right to end their pregnancies. Strongly supported by President Bush, the bill could be on his desk for signature in days.
The 281-142 vote culminated an eight-year drive by the Republican-led House to end the procedure that abortion opponents call "partial birth abortion." The Senate could take up the bill as early as today and send it to the president.
"Today’s action is an important step that will help us continue to build a culture of life in America," Bush said in a statement. "I look forward to the Senate passing this legislation so that I can sign this very important bill into law."
Abortion rights groups, citing court rulings striking down similar state laws, say the legislation is unconstitutional and they will challenge it as soon as it becomes law.
Doctors who violate the ban would be subject to up to two years in prison. The law would not affect women having the operation.
The legislation bans the procedure, generally performed in the second or third trimester, in which a fetus is partially delivered before a doctor punctures the skull. The opposing sides differ on the medical necessity or the numbers of such abortions, but they agree the bill will have far-reaching ramifications.
"Abortion will stay legal," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, a strong supporter of the restriction. But he added, "After a generation of bitter rhetoric, the American people have turned away from the divisive politics of abortion and embraced the inclusive politics of life."
"Don’t ever forget, this is about Roe v. Wade," said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision making abortion legal. "It’s about restricting access to safe medical procedures throughout a pregnancy."
Information on the bill, S.3 or H.R. 760 in its House version, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov.
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