House and Senate negotiators reached quick agreement Tuesday on what would be the first federal act in three decades to ban an abortion procedure.
Supporters of a ban on what they call “partial-birth abortion” said it would end what they termed an inhumane practice and give momentum to their drive to overturn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared women have the right to an abortion.
Opponents said the ban is unconstitutional and promised to challenge it in court as soon as President Bush signs it into law. Both the House and the Senate are expected to move swiftly to pass the compromise bill and send it to the president.
“We are just days away from prohibiting the gruesome and inhumane procedure known as partial-birth abortion,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), passed on a straight party-line vote.
Bush has urged Congress to pass a ban of the procedure, unlike President Clinton, who twice vetoed different forms of the bill because they did not contain exceptions when the health of the mother was endangered.
The House and Senate, both by two-to-one ratios, passed nearly identical bills earlier this year. The only difference was a Senate-passed amendment, offered by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), voicing support for the Roe vs. Wade decision.
The GOP-controlled House-Senate conference agreed to delete that language.