WASHINGTON – House Republicans, encouraged by a Senate vote to ban what critics call partial-birth abortion, cleared the way for their own bill to head to the House floor.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure in a party-line 19-11 vote Wednesday. The Senate passed its version nearly two weeks ago in a 64-33 vote.
President Bush has said he will sign the measure, a revised version of bills that former President Clinton twice vetoed as unconstitutional.
"A moral, medical and ethical consensus exists that partial-birth abortion is an inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary and should be prohibited," said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. "Opponents of this bill want to hide from the facts."
The House version does not include an amendment inserted in the Senate version by Democrats and passed by the Senate in a 52-46 vote. That provision reaffirms the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and urges that it not be overturned. Anti-abortion groups have been lobbying furiously to ensure that the provision is dropped before a final bill is sent to the White House.
The so-called partial birth procedure involves pulling the fetus partially out of the uterus and then puncturing the skull.
The Supreme Court has already addressed the issue, striking down a Nebraska law banning the procedure in June 2000. The court said the law imposed an "undue burden" on women who decide to end their pregnancies.
House committee Democrats argued that the latest version was still unconstitutional and offered several amendments to loosen restrictions in the bill. One that would have eliminated a provision subjecting doctors who perform the procedure to up to two years in prison failed in a 15-8 vote.
"Congress should not be involved in banning specific medical procedures," said Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. "We, in essence, have Congress practicing medicine and doctors practicing law."
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., warned, "There will be dire consequences to American women if this legislation passes."