Some very spooky stuff for all the pro-choicers out there ... (see the lj-cut below)
Do you guys think the Republicans are making a political blunder or indeed "proposing a set of restrictions that are very much in the mainstream of public opinion?" Looks like a move that could pay off big or suck big time.
January 2, 2003
Foes of Abortion Push for Major Bills in Congress
By ROBIN TONER
WASHINGTON, Jan. 1 — Galvanized by the Republican takeover of the Senate, opponents of abortion are preparing a major push for new abortion restrictions in the next Congress, beginning with a ban on the type of medical procedure they call partial birth abortion.
They say they will also push for some other measures already passed by the Republican-controlled House, including a bill making it a crime to evade parental notification laws by taking a minor across state lines for an abortion and legislation making it a separate crime to harm a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman. They also want to allow hospitals and other health care providers to refuse to perform abortions without fear of penalty, like the loss of federal money.
Supporters of abortion rights acknowledge that they face a much tougher fight without sympathetic Democrats in control of the White House, the Senate or the House.
Still, several Republican strategists on Capitol Hill have said their party needs to focus first and foremost on the economic agenda and not appear to be overinterpreting its Election Day mandate by pushing social issues right out of the gate.
At the center of the legislative maneuvering will be Senator Bill Frist, who replaced Senator Trent Lott as incoming majority leader last month. While a few social conservatives have voiced concern about his record, Dr. Frist is considered a strong ally by the National Right to Life Committee, which has given him a 100 percent rating on major votes for the last six years.
Ken Connor, president of the conservative Family Research Council, argued that Dr. Frist might be particularly effective for the anti-abortion cause because of his background as a surgeon.
"When he speaks on these issues," Mr. Connor said, "he does so with great authority, great expertise, and now with great clout."
Abortion rights advocates say that while Dr. Frist may have a different persona, "his views and his record are indistinguishable from Trent Lott's" on abortion, as Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, put it.
A spokesman for Dr. Frist said the senator was still working on the year's legislative agenda, but he noted that Dr. Frist had a long history of supporting a ban on the so-called "partial birth" procedure.
Many strategists on both sides say they expect that proposal, which passed the House last July, to be the first major abortion-related legislation to move through Congress. Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said that there were more than 60 votes for the measure in the Senate — enough to overcome a filibuster — and that President Bush had repeatedly promised to sign it.
Such a law would be a milestone for the anti-abortion movement, and abortion rights groups said they would quickly challenge it in the courts. The Supreme Court has already ruled that several state laws outlawing the practice are unconstitutional, in part because they did not include an exemption allowing the procedure for the sake of a woman's health and because the procedure itself was too vaguely defined.
Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the No. 3 Republican in the new Senate leadership and an abortion opponent, said in a recent interview, "We've come back with a rewrite that I think will pass constitutional muster. And I think it's an important line in the sand, although far from the line I would draw."
The latest stage of the abortion struggle begins at an emotional time for both sides: Jan. 22 is the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that recognized a constitutional right to abortion. Organizing is well under way for the anti-abortion marches and demonstrations that traditionally mark the day and that are expected to have special significance this year.
Speculation abounds on what kind of signal President Bush, an ally of the anti-abortion movement, will send to the marchers and the nation at large on that anniversary — how he will juggle the interests of an important conservative constituency with the swing voters who support abortion rights.
Despite the gains of the anti-abortion movement in the November elections, Mr. Santorum said recently that "we still don't have anything I would consider a pro-life majority in the Senate." But he argued that there was a majority for certain restrictions, like the "partial birth" ban, which he said had broad support among the public.
Critics assert that the abortion method at issue is a grisly practice that amounts to partially delivering a fetus before aborting it. A ban on the practice passed Congress twice in the Clinton administration, only to be vetoed at the urging of abortion rights supporters who asserted that the procedure was sometimes necessary to protect a woman's health.
Other legislative priorities for the anti-abortion movement include a broad ban on human cloning, including cloning to create tissue for medical research. Many argue that the issue has added urgency after a religious sect claimed last week to have created the first human clone.
Abortion opponents say they are uncertain how many votes the new abortion restrictions — many of which have passed the House — would get in the Senate.
Mr. Santorum said Republican control meant that such bills would, at the least, be brought to the floor and debated. Mr. Connor of the Family Research council agreed, saying that under the leadership of Senator Tom Daschle, a Democrat, the Senate was "a veritable graveyard of pro-life legislation."
"Hopefully," Mr. Connor said, "that logjam will now be overcome."
Supporters of abortion rights assert that the restrictions being sought, while seemingly incremental, are an effort to chip away at the basic right to abortion. Ms. Michelman, of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said, "We're going to see, legislatively, some difficult months ahead."
Both sides also expect to be fully engaged in the struggle over judicial nominations in the new Senate, given the crucial role that federal judges can play in interpreting abortion law.
The Senate, for many years, has been a tougher arena for the anti-abortion movement than the House. But the National Right to Life Committee estimates the November elections produced a net gain of two anti-abortion seats, with abortion rights opponents replacing supporters in Georgia, Minnesota and Missouri. In December, however, Senator Frank H. Murkowski of Alaska, an abortion opponent, appointed his daughter, Lisa Murkowski, to fill the remaining two years of his term, and she is considered a supporter of abortion rights.
The actual number of anti-abortion or abortion rights senators depends on the specific issue; for example, many politicians who support legalized abortion nevertheless vote for a ban on the so-called partial birth procedure.
In addition, there are limits to the new political clout of the anti-abortion movement. Mr. Bush has shown little inclination to put the issue front and center, speaking more generally of creating "a culture of life" and advancing more incremental measures to restrict abortions.
Democrats are openly hoping that the newly empowered social conservatives end up provoking a backlash by 2004, especially among the suburban women who tend to be economic conservatives but more socially liberal.
"A lot of pro-life Republicans, including the president in 2000, were able to win the votes of pro-choice independents and Republicans by convincing them that they did not really represent a threat to a woman's right to choose," said Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster. "The closer the pro-lifers get to attacking the core of Roe v. Wade, the bigger the political fallout will be."
Abortion opponents counter that they are proposing a set of restrictions that are very much in the mainstream of public opinion, the ambivalent middle that tends to support the legality of abortion but is open to more restrictions and regulations.
This agenda reflects a strategic shift among many anti-abortion advocates in recent years: While still committed to ending legalized abortion someday, many have adopted a more gradual, step-by-step approach intended to change attitudes and laws over the long haul.