Abortion-Method Ban Reignites Feud on Hill

Article excerpt

ADVOCATES of abortion rights won a victory this week by preventing a key abortion bill from passing in the Senate.

But their cheers are subdued.

They know, that this bill - which, for the first time since abortion was legalized, would ban a particular method of abortion - will pass in the end, says abortion-rights leader Kate Michelman.

And they know that the 104th Congress, which has considered a wide array of abortion issues, has been largely successful in its "major assault on the freedom to choose," says Ms. Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

But for the moment, opponents of abortion aren't cheering.

"It's obvious that this bill will be weakened" when it comes back to the Senate for its final vote, says Helen Alvare, spokeswoman for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bill in question would ban a procedure that is rarely used - numbering in the hundreds - among the 1.5 million abortions performed annually in the United States. But even the name of the procedure has become controversial. In medical parlance, it is called an "intact dilation and evacuation." Opponents call it a "partial-birth abortion," because they say the fetus is often alive when it is partially delivered and then killed.

The push to ban this procedure signals an important milestone in America's abortion wars. For the first time since the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 in its Roe v. Wade decision that abortion is a constitutionally protected right, Congress is moving to ban a particular method of abortion.

The move also represents an "unprecedented" effort by Congress to limit medical practice, said doctors speaking at a press conference organized by Planned Parenthood. "The fact is, very simply stated, Congress does not belong in decision-making about medical procedures or treatment," said Allan Rosenfield, dean of Columbia University School of Public Health.

Last week the House approved the bill by a wide margin. …