WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today regarding the Greenwood-Hoyer-Johnson substitute to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban that is being debated on the House Floor. The statement is as prepared for delivery on the House Floor:
“Despite what some proponents of the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act” may allege, I do not believe that there is one member of this House who is “pro-abortion.”
I do not believe that anyone here truly believes in his or her heart that abortion is a desired outcome to a woman’s pregnancy, and I think, without question, that this belief is even stronger when an abortion is obtained in the late stages of pregnancy.
Yet, the authors of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act cannot escape this indisputable fact: their legislation would not prevent one late-term abortion. Not one. That’s because their bill does not ban late-term abortions. It claims to ban a specific medical procedure performed in the most tragic of circumstances, but is written in a way that could outlaw other procedures as well.
On an issue of this magnitude – an issue that is fraught with emotion, that is susceptible to demagoguery, and that requires us to balance a woman’s right to personal autonomy with the rights of an unborn fetus – this House should seize what common ground exists.
That is precisely what this bipartisan substitute, the Late Term Abortion Restriction Act, would do. In short, this substitute addresses the very heart of the matter in this contentious debate: the termination of viable fetuses in the late stages of pregnancy.
Unlike the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, this bill focuses on when abortions are performed rather than how they are performed. It would ban all late-term abortions, regardless of the medical procedure used, so long as there are exceptions for the life and the health of the mother. Thus, this substitute comports with the Constitutional requirements articulated in June 2000 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart.
Recall that the Court in Stenberg struck down a Nebraska law proscribing partial-birth abortions because it (1) lacked the requisite exception for the preservation of the health of the mother and (2) impermissibly placed an “undue burden” upon a woman’s right to choose an alternative abortion procedure that is commonly used before fetal viability.
It is evident that where the Late Term Abortion Restriction Act is constitutional, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act – which deliberately excludes an exception for the health of the mother – is not.
The authors of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act recognize the constitutional infirmity of their bill, and thus seek to alter the facts upon which Stenberg was decided. Specifically, they reject the Court’s findings that partial-birth abortion may, in some circumstances, be the safest abortion procedure for some women.
And they state that partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of the woman – an assertion disputed by medical professionals.
I urge my colleagues to vote for this compassionate, constitutional substitute, which resembles the law in 41 states.
Let’s not be driven further apart by our differences, but seize what common ground exists in this daunting debate.”