The Senate voted yesterday to require parental notification for abortions performed on minors in federally assisted family-planning facilities but then scuttled the family-planning bill by refusing to limit debate on the measure.
The bill was shelved after its sponsors fell 10 votes short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture and speed passage of the measure by limiting debate and amendments.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said the 50-to-46 cloture vote "for all intents and purposes" ends consideration for this year of legislation to extend and expand the program for five years. He said he was "extremely disappointed" but intended to push for approval of the legislation next year.
The program, which provides family-planning assistance for poor people, will continue to be funded at a lower level, as it has been in recent years, by annual appropriations.
The Senate's refusal to limit debate on the bill appeared to have less to do with the abortion controversy than with Republican attempts to block cloture moves by Democrats who are seeking to speed passage of their own agenda. At least five GOP cosponsors of the family-planning bill voted against cloture on the measure.
The parental notification provision was the second of two seemingly conflicting abortion proposals to be considered in connection with the family planning bill by the Senate over the past two days.
On Tuesday, in what was hailed as a victory for abortion rights forces, the Senate voted 63 to 35 to reverse Bush administration regulations that prohibit information on abortion from being offered by clinics that receive federal family planning funds.
In yesterday's action, the Senate appeared to move in the other direction by approving a proposal by Sen. William L. Armstrong (R-Colo.), a leading abortion foe, to require that the same facilities notify a parent at least 24 hours before they perform an abortion on a minor.
The proposal was approved by voice vote after an attempt to kill it was defeated by a vote of 54 to 43.
Shortly before yesterday's Senate vote, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a family-planning reauthorization bill without any of the controversial abortion provisions.
In arguing for parental notification, Armstrong said nearly every kind of medical or surgical procedure performed on minors, even the piercing of ears for earrings, requires parental consent. He noted that his proposal called for only parental notification, not consent.
The family planning bill would have authorized nearly $1 billion over the next five years for aid to clinics, training grants, informational programs and other related services. The program currently receives $136 million on an annual basis and is expected to receive a 10 percent increase next year, according to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).