or Login to see your representatives.

Access Candidates' and Representatives' Biographies, Voting Records, Interest Group Ratings, Issue Positions, Public Statements, and Campaign Finances

Simply enter your zip code above to get to all of your candidates and representatives, or enter a name. Then, just click on the person you are interested in, and you can navigate to the categories of information we track for them.

Public Statements

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 Conference Report-Continued

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION BAN ACT OF 2003 CONFERENCE REPORT-CONTINUED

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. I rise in opposition to the conference report accompanying S. 3 which some, I think inaccurately, call the partial-birth abortion bill. In fact, this bill, originally introduced by Senator Santorum, is more accurately called the unconstitutional anti-choice bill, given the fact that it is flagrantly unconstitutional and its primary result will be to chill second-trimester abortion procedures.

I voted against this conference report in the recent House-Senate conference on this bill and also on the floor of the Senate last March.

This is the first bill since Roe v. Wade in 1973 that outlaws safe medical procedures and recriminalizes abortion. It is a major step forward in the march to obliterate a woman's right to control her own reproductive system and to eviscerate the entire choice movement in this country.

This bill is unconstitutional, I believe, for two reasons. First, it uses a vague definition of dilation and extraction abortion, or D&X abortion. This technique is also called intact dilation and evacuation, or intact D&E. It is also sometimes called, inaccurately, partial-birth abortion.

The sponsors of the bill have refused to use a definition of D&X that I suggested and that tracks the medical definition submitted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Why? Why would they refuse to use a definition suggested by the elite medical group of obstetricians and gynecologists who deal with this issue-a definition that would enable those obstetricians and gynecologists to know exactly what this legislation makes a crime?

I believe there is a reason. I believe that this bill deliberately uses a vague definition of D&X in order to affect other kinds of second-trimester abortions and thus impact the right to choose. Because its definition is so loose, the bill would ban and otherwise interfere with perfectly legal, permissible abortion techniques. It will also have a chilling effect on doctors, who will be afraid to perform abortions other than D&X for fear they will be subject to investigation and prosecution. Why? Because the bill does not use an accepted medical definition of D&X.

Second, the bill lacks any health exception. This has been spoken about before, and I will do it again. The Supreme Court ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart that any ban must have a health exception. This bill has no health exception. Why are we bothering to pass a bill that is so clearly unconstitutional?

The only reason I can think of is the proponents of the bill do not believe the health of a mother is sufficient reason to interrupt a pregnancy.

In fact, the supporters of the bill are not trying to remedy its constitutional defects. Rather, they are just making minor alterations to the findings in the bill.

I also oppose the bill because it omits language a majority of the Senate added last March recognizing the importance of Roe v. Wade and stating that this important opinion should not be overturned.

Unfortunately, as has been said, this language was stripped out in conference over the strenuous opposition of Senator Boxer, Congressman Nadler, Congresswoman Lofgren, and myself.

As an initial matter, I want to lay one myth to rest; that is the myth that most Americans support this bill. Supporters of the bill have repeatedly and erroneously argued that a majority of the country supports banning D&X abortion.

For example, in introducing this bill, Senator Santorum stated on the floor that "the American people clearly believe this is a procedure that should be prohibited."

However, such statements are not borne out by recent polls. For example, last July, ABC News released a nationwide poll which showed 61 percent of Americans oppose bans on so-called partial-birth abortion procedures if a woman's health is threatened. The bill now before us contains no health exception. That means a substantial majority of Americans think this bill is wrong.

I also want to mention a poll taken by Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research, Inc. between June 5, 2003, and June 12, 2003, of 1,200 likely voters. The poll found a majority of Americans-56 percent-believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

In addition, this poll found the country does not want the Government involved in a woman's private medical decisions. Eighty percent of voters believe abortion is a decision that should be made between a woman and her doctor. In fact, even a majority of those who identified themselves as pro-life said a woman and her doctor should make the decision.

In stark contrast, this bill criminalizes safe abortion procedures, and it puts the abortion decision in the hands of the Government and in the hands of politicians, not the woman and her doctor.

I would now like to mention Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, and the man who the New York Times called "an 'icon' of the pro-life movement." Mr. Terry is one of the staunchest foes of the right to choose in the entire Nation. He is known for harboring views so strong on the abortion issue that he has been jailed dozens of times for blocking clinics and for having a human fetus delivered to former President Bill Clinton. He is also known for speaking his mind.

Let me read some quotes from Mr. Terry in a press release issued through the Christian Communication Network, dated just a month ago, September 15, 2003. This press release is entitled: "Randall Terry, Founder of Operation Rescue Says, 'Partial-Birth Abortion Ban is a Political Scam but a Public Relations Goldmine."

Let me repeat that: "Partial-Birth Abortion is a Political Scam but a Public Relations Goldmine."

Mr. Terry says the bill before us is a "Political Scam." Specifically, he states:

This bill, if it becomes law, may not save one child's life. The Federal courts are likely to strike it down. . . .The bill provides political cover in an election season to cowardly "pro-life" political leaders who have done little for the pro-life cause.

That is not me. I am quoting Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue.

Let me repeat: "This bill, if it becomes law, may not save one child's life. The Federal courts are likely to strike it down. . . ."

And he is right.

Mr. Terry then goes on to say:

If the President and Congress want to accomplish a small, but real, step they should outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks-the age when a baby can live outside the womb.

Interestingly enough, his suggestion is similar to an amendment I offered on the floor of the Senate and in the joint House-Senate conference on this bill. This amendment would have banned all postviability abortions except and unless a doctor determines such an abortion is necessary to protect the life and health of the woman.

This is the way to go. If someone truly believes these abortions, which are not medically defined in the bill, should not take place, and if one believes the child is capable of life, then ban postviability abortions. I was prepared to see that enacted into law. But it was voted down twice, on the floor and in the conference committee.

I would like to take a moment to explain in detail why I think this bill is poorly drafted and is virtually certain to be struck down by the courts.

The conference report bill is unconstitutional for two reasons.

First, it attempts to ban the specific medical procedure it calls "partial-birth abortion," but it fails to use the accepted medical definition of what surgical procedure constitutes partial-birth abortion. The refusal of the sponsors of the bill to accept the medical definition of intact D&E is revealing. It makes it clear they are not really intent or interested in banning intact D&E or D&X, but, rather, they seek to muddy the waters to make it harder for women to get legal abortion using other legal and acceptable techniques. That, in my view, is the underlying purpose of the bill.

The Supreme Court ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart that any ban must have a health exception. This bill clearly, despite many attempts by this senator and others to put one in, has no health exception. The other side has repeatedly opposed a health exception.

Here is what Justice O'Connor said in her deciding opinion in Stenberg v. Carhart:

[B]ecause even a post-viability proscription of abortion would be invalid absent a health exception, Nebraska's ban on pre-viability partial birth abortions, under the circumstances presented here, must include a health exception as well. . . .The statute at issue here, however, only excepts those procedures necessary to save the life of the mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury. This lack of a health exception necessarily renders the statute unconstitutional.

Now, I must ask you, why would anybody, after this case, with the swing judge making that statement, draft a bill that so clearly violates the Supreme Court's decision? Justice O'Connor has very clearly said the "lack of a health exception necessarily renders the statute unconstitutional."

The fact the sponsors are ignoring the clear words of the Supreme Court is suspect to me. It is even more suspect given the fact that just last year the U.S. Government took the position in court that any ban on D&X must include a health exception. The Santorum bill, then, not only contravenes the Supreme Court but also flies in the face of the position taken by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Let me read from a brief filed by the United States in February of 2002 in Women's Medical Professional Corporation v. Bob Taft, a case in the Sixth Circuit involving an Ohio statute prohibiting late-term abortion including D&X. According to this brief:

the Court [in Carhart] stressed that the Nebraska statute prohibited the partial birth method of abortion except where that procedure was "necessary to save the life of the mother," . . . in violation of the Court's prior holdings in Roe v. Wade . . . and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey . . . that a State must permit abortions, "necessary in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother . . . "

The original brief even has the words "or health" underlined.

In other words, according to a brief filed by the United States Government last year, under Carhart, Roe, and Planned Parenthood, a State "must" provide a health exception for the woman. Yet we fly merrily in the face of that. It is ridiculous.

Supporters of the Santorum bill argue that they can ignore this language by throwing into the bill some questionable factual findings that a health exception is unnecessary. Baloney. They argue that these so-called findings make irrelevant the Supreme Court's constitutional determination in Carhart that a health exception is necessary.

The Framers of the Constitution did not intend that Congress be able to evade Supreme Court precedent and effectively amend the Constitution just by holding a hearing and generating questionable testimony from handpicked witnesses. In fact, the Supreme Court has made crystal clear that Congress cannot simply ignore a constitutional ruling they dislike by adopting a contrary legislative finding and telling the Court that they have to defer to it. That is just what is being done here.

Let me quote Chief Justice Burger on this point:

A legislature appropriately inquires into and may declare the reasons impelling legislative action but the judicial function commands analysis of whether the specific conduct charged falls within the reach of the statute and if so whether the legislation is consonant with the Constitution.

So make no mistake about it. You can say anything you want in the findings, and it isn't going to be dispositive as to whether the statute meets the test of the Constitution of the United States.

I also want to quote from U.S. v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 (2000), a decision that struck down part of the Violence Against Women Act. I personally disagree with this decision, but it is controlling law. In that case, the Supreme Court held that "the existence of congressional findings is not sufficient, by itself, to sustain the constitutionality" of the challenged provision of the Violence Against Women Act. That is on page 614.

So why are these findings in the bill? I believe the other side is well aware of U.S. v. Morrison and other cases. Why are they doing it this way then? There has to be a reason.

Here the sponsors of S. 3 are trying to do exactly what the Supreme Court said the Congress cannot do: Use congressional findings to do something that is clearly unconstitutional. The sponsors of this bill are effectively trying to overturn binding Supreme Court precedent and rewrite the Constitution by enacting a bill that on its face violates Stenberg v. Carhart. They have clearly overstepped their bounds.

Mr. President, one of the most disappointing aspects of this debate is that a majority of the House-Senate conference on this bill decided to thwart the will of the Senate and strip out language recognizing the importance of Roe v. Wade. This decision clearly unmasked the sponsor's clear intention in introducing this bill: to strike at Roe. The provision stripped out of the bill was a simple sense-of-the-Senate resolution. Let me read its exact language:

One, the decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 1973, was appropriate and secures an important constitutional right.

Two, such decision should not be overturned.

They struck this language out. Why? Because they want Roe overturned. That is the reason.

I am pleased that the Roe v. Wade amendment was added to the bill last March on a bipartisan vote of 52 to 46. Unfortunately, the House-passed late-term abortion bill lacked the language. The House refused to agree to it.

While I oppose the criminalization of safe abortion techniques in S. 3, I strongly support the Roe v. Wade language we added to that legislation.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. CHAFEE). The Senator has used 20 minutes.

Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I yield 4 additional minutes and retain the remainder of my time.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California.

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. I thank the Senator from California.

In the past 30 years, since the Supreme Court upheld a woman's right to choose, a great deal has changed for women in America. But now, in 2003, we are about to push women back to where they were in the 1950s, a generation that I remember well, a generation of passing the plate to raise money for abortions in Mexico, a generation of back alley abortions, a generation of tremendous mortality and morbidity for women, a generation of fear. It makes no sense.

The fact that a majority of the House-Senate conference stripped out sense-of-the-Senate language that merely summarized Federal abortion law should be exhibit A for anyone who doubts that this bill is really a frontal political attack on choice in America.

I am also disappointed that the conference refused to accept a commonsense amendment I offered to the bill before us today. That amendment, as I said, would have banned all postviability abortions except if determined by the doctor that such an abortion was necessary to protect the life and health of the woman.

With that amendment, the sponsors of this bill could have gotten what they wanted legally. Why didn't they take it? The reason they didn't take it is because if you have an anti-choice bill with a nebulous, vague definition, you can chill all legal second trimester abortions.

Let me tell you one more thing about the amendment I offered. To ensure compliance with the amendment, we even provided that a doctor who would perform a postviability abortion on a woman whose health or life is not at risk could be fined up to $100,000. That amendment would have put medical decisions back into the hands of doctors but, at the same time, prevented abuses. In my view, if a doctor believes such a procedure is necessary to protect a woman's life or health, then he or she should be able to perform that procedure.

Why do some Senators believe that the Federal Government even needs to be involved in this issue?

Why is this legislation even necessary? Roe v. Wade clearly allows States to ban all postviability abortions unless it is necessary to protect a woman's life or health, and 41 States already have bans on the books. All States are free today to do so if their State legislatures so choose.

The fact is, abortions this late in the pregnancy are rare and usually performed under tragic circumstances, such as a brain outside of a child's skull or vital inner workings outside of the body that cannot be connected.

Mr. President, the whole focus of many in this Congress and in the conservative movement has been to give power and control back to the States and eliminate the Federal Government from people's lives. So anyone who believes in States' rights must now question the logic of imposing a new Federal regulation on States in a case such as this, where States already have the authority to ban postviability abortions and where a dominant majority of States-41-have already enacted such a law.

Is Federal legislation really necessary? No. I say to my colleagues that this clearly is a political bill designed to fan the flames and invade Roe v. Wade and weaken it substantially. It attempts to ban a medical procedure without properly identifying that procedure in medical terms.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a number of letters demonstrating that this legislation poses a serious threat to women's health be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

ASSOCIATION OF REPRODUCTIVE
HEALTH PROFESSIONALS,
Washington, DC, October 20, 2003.

U.S. SENATE,
Washington, DC.

DEAR SENATOR: We are writing on behalf of thousands of health care providers to urge you and your colleagues to oppose federal legislation criminalizing safe abortion procedures (S. 3, the so-called "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003").

This bill is deceptive, is based on a number of flawed assumptions, and is unnecessary. First, "partial-birth abortion" is not a medical term but a non-scientific and politically biased rhetorical expression invented by activists to convey misrepresentations about safe and medically necessary abortion procedures. The term "partial-birth abortion" is not used by any of the major national medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women's Association, the American Public Health Association, and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP).

Second, the bill is deceptive because it does not specify any particular stage of pregnancy-contrary to assurances by its sponsors that the bill's intent is to focus only on third trimester abortions.

Finally, abortions during the third-term are already illegal in almost every state except to save the woman's life or health, and are rarely performed. This legislation is unnecessary and is an example of political ideology trumping science and appropriate medical decision-making.

Published literature attests to the fact that placing restrictions on abortion services is harmful to the health of women and that medical decisions should be left to health care providers. ARHP is concerned because S. 3 dictates health care methodology to the clinicians who must provide medical care under the most difficult of circumstances. Restrictions imposed by the government on abortion services will not reduce the need for abortion or the quantity of abortions performed, it will only make abortion less safe.

If you or members of your staff have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Wayne C. Shields at the ARHP office at (202) 466-3825 or wshields@arhp.org.

Sincerely,

Felicia H. Stewart, MD,
Chair, ARHP Board of Directors.

Wayne C. Shields,
President and CEO.
October 17, 2003.

U.S. SENATE,
Washington, DC.

DEAR SENATOR FEINSTEIN: The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) strongly opposes S. 3, the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003". As an organization that is dedicated to ensuring the fundamental human right to reproductive health care for Latinas, their families, and their communities, we cannot support the proposed legislation which would drastically inhibit a woman's right to choose, as well as prohibit medically safe procedures which are often necessary to protect and save the life of the woman.

NLIRH supports the right of every Latina to be in charge of her own life, to determine if and when to have children, and, to seek the full range of reproductive health options available. These health options include access to quality gynecological care, family planning and contraception, fertility treatment, and all abortion services. Contrary to popular belief, Latinas do access abortion services, and 51% of Latinas actively identify as pro-choice. While abortion may not be an option for every Latina, we support the right of every Latina to make her own personal and private decision about abortion and we also support efforts to restore public funding for abortion. For Latinas, accessing abortion services is often difficult already, due to cultural, linguistic, legal, and economic barriers, and banning safe abortion procedures would only further impede upon our rights to choose what is medically and personally appropriate for us.

Restricting and criminalizing any abortion procedure would undermine the fundamental human right to self-determination, and would endanger the lives of women for whom abortion may be medically necessary. Decisions regarding when to have children are often difficult, personal, and morally complicated, and should be made only by the woman.

We appreciate your attention to our concerns, and strongly urge you to vote against the so-called "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 2003."

Sincerely,

MEDICAL STUDENTS FOR CHOICE,
Oakland, CA, October 19, 2003.

Hon. DIANNE FEINSTEIN,
U.S. Senate,
Washington, DC.

DEAR SENATOR FEINSTEIN: On behalf of Medical Students for Choice, a national organization representing more than 7,000 medical students and residents, I write to urge your opposition to H.R. 760/S. 3, the (so-called) Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

Medical Students for Choice is dedicated to ensuring that woman's right to choose from a full range of reproductive health options is preserved. We believe that a physician, in consultation with the patient, should make the decision regarding what method should be used to terminate a pregnancy. Physicians need to have all medical options available in order to provide women with the best medical care possible.

We are opposed to H.R. 760/S. 3 because we believe this and other legislative and judicial restrictions to safe, medically accepted abortion procedures severely jeopardize women's health and well-being. We also oppose the bill because it fails to include adequate health exception language in instances where certain procedures may be determined by a physician to be the best or most appropriate to preserve the health of the woman. This bill ties the hands of physicians and endangers the health of women. Further, we believe that this bill is deceptive and represents a thinly veiled attempt to restrict women's access to all abortion procedures. "Partial birth" is a political term, not a medical term. Despite the anti-choice political rhetoric, this bill is neither designed nor written to ban only one procedure. The bill's prohibitions would apply well before viability and could ban more than one procedure. These so-called "partial birth" abortion bans are deliberately designed to erode the protections of Roe v. Wade.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns regarding the negative effect this legislation would have to a woman's right to a safe, legal abortion.

Sincerely,

ANGEL M. FOSTER, D.PHIL.,
President.

MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGAL
DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND,
Washington, DC, October 14, 2003.

Re Conference Report H. Rept. 108-288-The Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003.

DEAR SENATOR: I am writing on behalf of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) to urge you to oppose Conference Report H. Rept. 108-228, the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003 (the Act). MALDEF, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to protect and promote the civil rights of the over 35 million Latinos living in the United States, believes this legislation is unconstitutional and harmful to women's health.

The Act is unconstitutional for at least three reasons. First, the legislation does not include a health exception. The Supreme Court has held that laws regulating abortion must adequately safeguard a woman's health. This legislation does not include such an exception. Contrary to the legislative findings indicating that a health exception to the ban is never necessary, many physicians have stated that this legislation would prevent them from performing procedures that are necessary to protect a woman's health. Second, the legislation is unconstitutional because the language of the ban is overly broad. The ban is not limited to specific medical procedures and actually could prohibit the safest abortion techniques in certain cases, thereby unduly burdening a woman's right to choose. Finally, determining which procedure is medically necessary is a medical decision that should be made by a physician and his or her patient, not by the federal government. The Supreme Court has emphasized the need for physicians to have adequate discretion to make these types of medical decisions.

The Supreme Court directly addressed this type of ban in Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000). In Stenberg, the Court found Nebraska's ban on so-called partial birth abortion unconstitutional because the legislation's language was overly broad and it lacked a health exception. The federal version of the ban now pending before you contains the same flaws and is similarly unconstitutional.

This legislation is an unprecedented attempt by the federal government to restrict women's access to abortion that ultimately jeopardizes the health of women. MALDEF strongly opposes this legislation and urges you to do so as well. If you have any questions please contact Angela Hooton at (202) 293-2828.

Sincerely,

ANTONIA HERNáNDEZ,
President and General Counsel.

NATIONAL LATINA INSTITUTE
FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH,
Brooklyn, NY, October 17, 2003.

U.S. SENATE,
Washington, DC.

DEAR SENATOR FEINSTEIN: The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) strongly opposes S. 3, the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003". As an organization that is dedicated to ensuring the fundamental human right to reproductive health care for Latinas, their families, and their communities, we cannot support the proposed legislation which would drastically inhibit a woman's right to choose, as well as prohibit medically safe procedures which are often necessary to protect and save the life of the woman.

NLIRH supports the right of every Latina to be in charge of her own life, to determine if and when to have children, and to seek the full range of reproductive health options available. These health options include access to quality gynecological care, family planning and contraception, fertility treatment, and all abortion services. Contrary to popular belief, Latinas do access abortion services, and 51% of Latinas actively identify as pro-choice. While abortion may not be an option for every Latina, we support the right of every Latina to make her own personal and private decision about abortion and we also support efforts to restore public funding for abortion. For Latinas, accessing abortion services is often difficult already, due to cultural, linguistic, legal, and economic barriers, and banning safe abortion procedures would only further impede upon our rights to choose what is medically and personally appropriate for us.

Restricting and criminalizing any abortion procedure would undermine the fundamental human right to self-determination, and would endanger the lives of women for whom abortion may be medically necessary. Decisions regarding when to have children are often difficult, personal, and morally complicated, and should be made only by the woman.

We appreciate your attention to our concerns, and strongly urge you to vote against the so-called "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 2003."

Sincerely,

SILVIA HENRIQUEZ,
Executive Director.

NATIONAL BLACK WOMEN'S
HEALTH PROJECT, INC.,
October 20, 2003.

Hon. DIANNE FEINSTEIN,
U.S. Senate, Hart Senate Office Building,
Washington, DC.

DEAR SENATOR FEINSTEIN: On behalf of the Black Women's Health Imperative (formerly National Black Women's health Project), I am writing to convey our opposition to H.R. 760, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

As the only national organization that is solely dedicated to the health of the nation's 19 million Black women and girls, the Black Women's Health Imperative (the Imperative), has focused on issues that disproportionately affect Black women from access to healthcare, inclusive of reproductive health care. The Imperative has been in the forefront advocating for a comprehensive agenda that includes the full range of medical and socially available technologies and services for fertility management.

We believe that H.R. 760 would restrict safe, medically acceptable abortion procedures that would severely endanger women's health and well-being, disproportionately affecting low-income African American women. Moreover, we feel that this legislation fails to include adequate health exception language in instances where certain procedures may be determined by a physician to be the most appropriate to preserve the health of the woman.

For the past 20 years, the Black Women's Health Imperative has been instrumental in highlighting disparities in health and will continue to play an essential role in helping to shape policies that seek to improve African American women's overall health. On behalf of our constituency, we urge the United States Senate to oppose H.R. 760, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

Sincerely,

LORRAINE COLE, PhD.

[From Medscape General Medicine, June 25, 2003]

THE FEDERAL BAN ON SO-CALLED "PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION" IS A DANGEROUS INTRUSION INTO MEDICAL PRACTICE
(By Paul D. Blumenthal, MD, MPH)

Congress has passed the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," the first federal legislation ever enacted that bans abortion procedures. This unprecedented intrusion by Congress into medical practice will reduce access to second-trimester abortions and defines the doctors who perform them as criminals. Moreover, by undermining a woman's right to select the reproductive healthcare most appropriate for her and interfering with a physician's ability to make medical decisions, Congress derogates the physician-patient relationship.

Proponents of this law claim that it bans only a particular procedure. However, the legislation does not define what is being banned in such a way that a physician can know exactly what is prohibited. There is no formally recognized medical procedure to which the term "partial-birth abortion" used in this legislation applies; it is therefore vague and medically incorrect. None of my colleagues know or could state whether the abortion procedures they now perform are covered under this law. Indeed, as I read the definition of the banned procedures, any of the safest, most common abortion methods used throughout the second trimester of pregnancy could proceed in such a manner as to be outlawed. One can only assume that by intimidating medical providers with the constant threat of criminal accusations, the intent of this law is to frighten the medical community-the same community that swears an ancient oath to use its knowledge and skills to serve and protect the lives of its patients-from performing pregnancy terminations at all.

The practice of high-quality medicine requires that physicians be knowledgeable about and able to perform variety of procedures to accomplish a given treatment or therapy. Planning any procedure is done in consultation with the patient, and it is based on the medical judgment, experience, and training of the provider, and the individual circumstances of the patient's condition. Sometimes, as a result of developments during a surgery or in a patient's condition, it becomes necessary to adapt and choose a different course or modify the procedure as it progresses. These decisions are often quite complex and mandate that physicians use their best professional and clinical judgment, most often right on the spot. These are decisions that should be made by physicians and their patients stone. Indeed, when performing surgery, there is not time for a call to Congress, the Supreme Court, or anyone else in order to obtain clarification of the statutory intent or to request a waiver. This law evokes a preposterous image of physicians with their attorneys present in the operating room advising and counseling them at each step, and perhaps even in the middle of surgery suggesting a physician alter a technique deemed best for the patient to avoid committing a federal crime. Physicians and surgeons should be allowed to practice their art in accordance with time-honored peer-reviewed standards and with only the interests of the patient at . . . .

Back to top