Bush Signs Partial-Birth Abortion Bill

Pro-life and pro-choice students at Indiana University reacted to President Bush’s signing of legislation banning late-term abortions Wednesday afternoon. The bill, passed by the House in early October and by the Senate late last week, prohibits doctors from performing the procedure anti-abortion activists call “partial-birth abortions.” “For years, a terrible form of violence has been directed against children who are inches from birth while the law looked the other way,” Bush said at a signing ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The procedure, which usually involves puncturing the fetus’ skull, is generally performed in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance spokesperson and senior Amanda Stevens criticized the bill. “It’s basically a movement by anti-choice legislators to get government into doctors’ offices,” she said. “It’s really more of an attack on reproductive rights than the authors of the bill would like you to see.” Stevens said that the bill lacks crucial exemptions, including provisions that would allow late-term abortions to save the life of the mother. But not everyone agrees with Stevens’ assessment. “I’m totally opposed to (partial-birth abortion),” said Katie McCauley, external vice president of the IU College Republicans. “There’s huge moral and ethical implications for a country that allows it.” McCauley said the ban is “an important stepping-stone” to future anti-abortion steps, including overturning the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision allowing legal abortions. “We have to have legislation that constricts [Roe] because it’s on the books,” she said. “If we can at least limit it, it’s a step in the right direction.” Theresa Browning, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Indiana, said it’s not right to make such limitations. “It’s not the place of the government or the president to take their personal politics into my doctor’s office,” she said. Browning said the decision would not affect services offered at the Bloomington location of Planned Parenthood. “The Planned Parenthood in Bloomington only performs abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy,” she said. Browning said supporters of the legislation were using late-term abortions to attack what Planned Parenthood believes is women’s constitutional right to choose. “They’ve singled out this rare form of abortion to talk about [how] to horrify people about abortion in general,” Browning said. “This type of abortion is done for pregnancies very late, often pregnancies that were wanted but something’s gone horribly wrong with the fetus or the woman’s health.” A federal judge in Nebraska indicated Wednesday that he might issue an injunction delaying the bill’s implementation in response to a suit challenging the bill on constitutional grounds, according to The Associated Press. The AP also reported Wednesday hearings on the bill’s constitutionality were being held in San Francisco and New York City. Bush pledged to fight challenges to the legislation. “The executive branch will vigorously defend this law against any who would try to overturn it in the courts,” Bush said.