Albion Monitor /Features
 Crusade: Attacks in the Legislatures

Theatre of Battle, 1995

by Jeff Elliott

Throughout last year, abortion rights were under attack on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures. These are some of the lowlights:

Military Hospitals

Abortions are forbidden in military hospital except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest. Although the debate began with the question of whether the government would pay for military abortions as part of health-care coverage, final language in the bill made it illegal to perform abortions even if personal funds are used.

Clinton signed this restriction as part of Department of Defense appropriations.

Federal Employees

Although federal employees contribute to government-provided health insurance, they will only be covered in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest. Personal funds may be used for an abortion -- as long as it isn't performed at a military hospital.

Abortion was covered by their insurance in the first two years of the Clinton administration, FY 1994 and 1995.

"Partial Birth" Abortion Ban

One of the most debated topics in early December, a ban on "Partial Birth" abortions was passed by Congress. It is called an "intact D&E" by doctors -- there is no such medical term as "partial birth," which was invented by anti-abortion proponents.

The procedure is a late term abortion when the mother's life or health is endangered, or when there are severe fetal deformities. It is considered the safest possible solution in this situation, and offers the woman a greater chance of future pregnancy.

Under the versions passed by both the House and Senate, a doctor could be sued for malpractice or criminally prosecuted for performing the operation.

During the debate, Senator Bob Smith (R-New Hampshire) claimed that it would mean "babies" being aborted at 8-1/2 months simply because they are girls or have blue eyes.

Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) spoke against the ban: "I cannot presume to limit the options of any woman who is anguishing over a crisis pregnancy. ... [Abortion] is an alternative. It is an option. It is obviously one of the most difficult choices or options that any ... woman must make. I do not spend any part of my life trying to inflict ... my personal views on others. I see that happening here ... especially in the hallways, [it is those] who do it with steely-eyed zealotry that I tire of. ... We in Congress should not be legislating in this area. This is overreaching in every sense."

Simpson also noted that the bill refers to the "killing of a human fetus" which he said was unheard of. "Where did [this terminology] come from? It is a manifestation," said Simpson, "of a manipulative group trying to desperately knock of Roe vs. Wade."

The bill will return for more House debate when Congress resumes later this month.

Nebraska Defines Life

A Nebraska state Senator has proposed a law defining when life begins. In the bill, life begins when there is circulatory, respiratory, or cerebral function. According to the state Department of Health, this would be at about five to six weeks.

In a statement from from Omaha Planned Parenthood Executive Director Jan Kennedy, she observed, "At a time when we have politicians demanding that the government get off people's backs, we have our legislators saying that they as politicians would make this very personal, private decision for women. Frankly, it's none of their business."

Estelle Rogers, policy director for the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project says that she expects similar legislation to be introduced in Congress later this year.

Washington D.C.

Because the federal government funds the District of Columbia directly, Congress debates local provisions the same as any national issue. The latest version of the appropriations bill includes restrictions on the use of both federal and state funds to provide abortions to Medicaid-eligible women except in cases where they are victims of rape or incest or in cases of life endangerment.

Although this language was approved during most of the years of the Reagan and Bush Administrations, it was struck during the first two years of the Clinton Administration, when the District was permitted to manage the use of its own funds.


A bill was introduced in the state Assembly last April that would require a 24-hour waiting period, that the Department of Health Services provide "materials regarding the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at two-week gestational increments," permitted "the father or grandparent of the unborn child" to sue abortion providers for malpractice, and allowed the names of women who have abortions to be publicized.

The bill died last month, stalled by a tie vote in the Health Committee. A similar bill had been introduced in 1994.

The publication of the names of women who have abortion appears to be a growing tactic of anti-abortion activists. According to a Planned Parenthood newsletter, the Rescue America group claims to have the names and addresses of more than 500 women in the Baltimore area, obtained from rummaging through clinic garbage.

Albion Monitor February 18, 1996 (

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