The renewed debate over a federal ban on partial-birth abortion has reminded us of the unwillingness of abortion supporters to accept even the most sensible restrictions on the controversial practice.
The Senate last week passed, and President George W. Bush has vowed to sign, a carefully crafted and limited law that would outlaw one procedure that even many supporters describe as gruesome. It is a form of late-term abortion that kills a fetus as it is exiting the birth canal.
Yet, trumpeting the slippery-slope argument, abortion-rights groups have acted as if the proposed ban is the equivalent of banning all abortions.
“This is a radical, radical thing that is about to happen,” argued Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. But only a small number of such abortions — about 2,200 out of an estimated 1.3 million abortions a year, according to statistics provided by pro-abortion groups — take place.
Yes, some abortion foes jumped on this decision as the first step toward outlawing abortion. Is that really the case? Political activists on both sides of every debate see everything as a step in one direction or another. The key question: Is this particular restriction a good idea?
We think the answer is yes.
In response to a Supreme Court ruling that overturned a Nebraska law outlawing partial-birth abortions, the Senate bill clearly describes the procedure being outlawed, so it can’t be called overly vague. Once signed, the law will be battled in courts for years before anything is outlawed. This hardly is the Earth-shattering event Sen. Boxer decries.
Roe vs. Wade, which made abortion a constitutional right in the first trimester, remains the law of the land. Given current realities, the partial-birth abortion bill is a reasonable limitation.
There is no moral justification — nor medical need — for terminating a pregnancy in this particular way. These abortions clearly are done after a fetus could live outside the womb, so they are not protected under Roe vs. Wade.
That even this barbaric procedure cannot be banned without a fight is a reminder that the bitter abortion feud will long continue.