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House Votes to Restrict Abortions (Post, June 5)
Rep. Steve Chabot
OnPolitics Section
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Partial Birth Abortion
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)
Bill Sponsor

Thursday, June 05, 2003; 2:30 p.m ET

Following on the heels of a March vote in the Senate, late Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives voted to outlaw the procedure abortion foes call "partial birth" abortion. Unlike President Clinton who twice vetoed similar legislation, President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), lead sponsor of the bill, was online to take your questions and comments.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.



Rep. Steve Chabot: I am pleased to have the opportunity to answer questions from those who may have been following the debate. I am the chairman on the subcommittee on the constitution and I am the principal sponsor on the partial birth abortion ban. I am pleased to respond to any questions the readers may ask.

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Ashburn, Va.: As a weakly pro-choice Republican, I applaud your efforts to outlaw "partial birth abortion." However, I worry that the left's fears that this bill is a first step towards banning abortion under all circumstances might have some truth to them. Let me pose an upfront question: do you mean to ban abortions under all circumstances and at all stages of embryonic/fetal development?

Rep. Steve Chabot: This bill deals specifically with only one type of abortion and it is a type of abortion that across most frequently at the 5th and 6th months of pregnancy. There are estimates that about 5,000 of these in the US each year. The vast majority of those are healthy unborn babies being carried by healthy mothers. This does not in any way deal with any other types of abortion in the country.

I make no secret that I am pro-life and believe that it would be much better to put an unwanted child up for adoption rather than destroy that child through abortion, but this bill is not about Roe Vs. Wade, it is about partial birth abortion.

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Confused: Please help me understand the issue. If there is no such medical term as partial birth abortion, as your opposition claims, why bother banning it, or, vice versa, what is the harm in banning it? Your opposition claims you are banning broader procedures than what you describe as partial birth abortion. What exact procedures are you proposing to ban, and is the language in your bill specific enough that it limits the ban to what you are describing as partial birth abortion?

Rep. Steve Chabot: There clearly is a procedure that occurs in the country about 5,000 times a year that by common acceptance is now called partial birth abortion. There are other terms which can be used but that is the accepted term now through common usage. It is a procedure in which a baby, most commonly in the fifth month of pregnancy, some of the babies being viable, some not, is delivered through the birth channel all but the head, which remains within the mother, than a sharp instrument, generally a pair of scissors, is used to puncture the back of a child's skull and then a tube in inserted and the brains are sucked out. This causes the skull to collapse and the now dead baby is pulled completely out of the mother. Had the baby been killed in this manor completely outside the mother it would of course be considered murder. The only difference is a matter of inches. There now exists a consensus in this country that this procedure is barbaric, gruesome, inhumane and should not be permitted in a society that likes to call itself civilized. The vote to ban this procedure in the house yesterday was 282 in favor of banning to 139 against the ban.

62 Democrats agreed with almost all the Republicans to ban the procedure.

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Manassas Park, Va.: I am a mother of 2 year old boy and twenty weeks pregnant with my second child. I am an educated professional who would never have an abortion unless my life were at risk. Having said, I understand there is no provision in your "partial birth abortion" bill that is now destined to signed into law regarding the life of my mother. As mothers, we have to make painful choices all the time. Should my son grow up without a mother if this pregnancy endangered my life now? How can you in good conscience not put a provision to protect the family and other children from the loss of their mother? My first responsibility is to my son who is here now. What do you say to this?

Rep. Steve Chabot: I appreciate the question because you have been misinformed. There is a clear provision in the bill which allows this procedure if the mother's life is at risk.

I wish you the best in the upcoming 20 weeks of your pregnancy.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Mr. Chabot, thank you for taking our questions. Why is this legislation necessary when abortions of legally viable fetuses were outlawed by the Supreme Court opinion in Roe v Wade? It seems to me that it would be more prudent to enforce the existing laws that nearly every state in the union has prohibiting such procedures.

Rep. Steve Chabot: It is very difficult to determine whether a baby in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy is viable. Oftentimes the baby could be assisted on life support, survive and be a healthy child. Under existing law it is up to the abortionist to make the determination as to whether the baby is viable or not. It seems more reasonable and humane to err on the side of protecting innocent human life. The overwhelming expert opinion indicates that the partial birth abortions being performed in this country are healthy babies in healthy mothers. We ought to insist that their lives not be snuffed out by such a brutal procedure.

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for hosting today. I wondered if there was some reason you don't use the medical term, or its acronym, for the procedure that was banned under the new law. Seems like a more honest way to approach the topic.

Rep. Steve Chabot: The commonly accepted terminology for this procedure is "partial birth abortion." I have had some suggest that a more appropriate title would be "killing a baby during birth."

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Rep. Steve Chabot: Which is, after all, what it really is.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hi, Steve. Thanks for taking my question. It looks like there was an exception made to protect the life of the mother, but why not her health? And also, why weren't the banned procedures listed more specifically?

Thanks

Rep. Steve Chabot: The American Medical Association has indicated that a partial birth abortion is never medically necessary to ensure the health of the mother. This procedure is not taught in any medical school or in any hospital. It is, in reality, a rouge procedure which can cause serious risk to the mother. It is outside standard medical care. If a health exception would have been included in the bill, there are abortion providers who have publicly stated that it is their view that any pregnancy is a health risk to the woman. Therefore a partial birth abortion ban with a health-risk included is really a phony ban.

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Lowell, Mass.: Hello Rep Chabot,

Thank you for availing yourself to sponsor this bill. It takes quite a bit of political courage to do this.

How tight is this bill so that we don't have to go to court like the Stenburg V. Nebraska case in 2000?

Rep. Steve Chabot: Thank you Massachusetts. My father was born and raised in your great state.

As to your question about a potential court challenge, it is a given that those opposed to the ban will file a challenge in the courts. It is likely that it will ultimately end up in the United States Supreme Court as the Stenberg v. Carhart case did. However we have carefully crafted this bill in order to do everything possible to withstand such a challenge. Our goal is to protect these unborn innocent babies from a truly horrific procedure.

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Arlington, Va.: While I disagree with your position, I admire the fact that you seem to be answering some more challenging questions in this chat. Here is another for you: Why do you think the majority of pro-life advocates appear to be men? Don't you think the numbers would change if the debate were between the life of the fetus and a man's right to govern his own body? Thank you for your comments.

Rep. Steve Chabot: There are many women, probably a majority, who believe that this particular procedure is beyond the pale. Statistically, half the babies who will be destroyed by partial birth abortion are little girls.

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Washington, D.C.: Why is this an appropriate issue for federal legislation? Why not leave it up to the individual states? If Roe v. Wade were overturned would you propose federal legislation to outlaw all abortions or would you leave it up to the states?

Rep. Steve Chabot: Individual states had passed legislation to ban this type of abortion because it is so gruesome. Sen. Moynihan, who was a pro-choice Democratic Senator, described this type of abortion as infanticide. The Supreme Court in the previously refereed to case struck down the state of Nebraska's attempt to ban partial broth abortions. It is the belief of the overwhelming majority of members of Congress that it is appropriate for us to act in this particular circumstance.

As to Roe v. Wade, prior to that decision it was left to the states to allow or prohibit abortion. Most states chose to prohibit it. As I also mentioned earlier in this discussion, I am strongly pro-life. I believe rather than destroying these innocent human lives, we should encourage adoption. There are approximately 40 million of our fellow citizens who do not exist as a result of the Roe v. Wade decision on Jan 22, 1973. It is also harder and harder for childless couples to adopt an infant in the United States because of Roe v. Wade. That is why so many American parents are trying to adopt children from Romania, Ukraine, etc.

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Washington, D.C.: Could someone post a link to the bill so we can see what it says for ourselves? It seems that there are different opinions about its contents.

Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Here's the bill link: S.3 A bill to prohibit the procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion

Rep. Steve Chabot: Thank you very much for participating in this online discussion today. I hope that I am able to share a forum such as this again in the future.

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