REPORT FROM CONGRESS
By Congressman Roger F. Wicker
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last week to uphold a ban on partial-birth abortions. The court's action was a victory for the sanctity of life and finally makes this gruesome procedure illegal.
I cosponsored the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and was actively involved in promoting its passage in 2003. The bill was approved in both Houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bush at a ceremony I attended.
But before the ink was dry on the parchment, opponents announced plans to challenge the constitutionality of the new law. That challenge took four years to make its way to the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court decision affirming the law means it can go into effect for the first time.
Partial birth abortion is defined in this statute as a procedure in which an intact living fetus is partially delivered and then killed before delivery is complete. In addition to being inhumane, the procedure is never medically necessary according to the medical experts who appeared during hearings on this issue in the House of Representatives.
Most of these abortions are performed in the fifth or sixth months of pregnancy, while some have also been done in the seventh month or later. By that time, an infant can survive outside the womb. There is medical evidence to indicate that the baby is sensitive to pain at that point in the pregnancy. The procedure has led to the taking of innocent lives in the most brutal way.
CLINTON VETOED BAN
I have been a strong advocate for banning this practice since taking office in 1995. The measure received bipartisan backing in the late 1990s and won approval in Congress two times. The issue also had support throughout the country. Public opinion polls showed that the vast majority of the American people believe this terrible procedure should be illegal, regardless of party affiliation or their position on other types of abortion. The late liberal New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan twice voted for the ban. He said, "What on earth is this procedure? It is too close to infanticide." Despite that level of support, President Clinton vetoed the legislation both times. The vetoes were sustained in the U.S. Senate.
'BUILDING CULTURE OF LIFE'
President Bush echoed the feeling of many Americans in his comments about the ruling. He said the decision "affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America. The partial-birth abortion ban, which an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress passed and I signed into law, represents a commitment to building a culture of life in America."
The 5-4 margin of victory on this issue also reflects the importance of appointing conservative, constitutionalist judges to the Supreme Court. The two outstanding men President Bush appointed to the high court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, voted with the majority.