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Clinton May Veto Dole-Backed Abortion Bill


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 28) -- The House voted late Wednesday to ban certain late-term abortions, setting up a possible election-year show-down between Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), who backed the measure, and President Bill Clinton, who will likely veto the measure.

Clinton has not committed one way or the other, but in a letter to congressional leaders, the president requested changes to permit exemptions "to preserve the life of the woman or avert serious health consequences to the woman." Saying he's "studied and prayed" on the issue, Clinton said absent those changes the bill would be unconstitutional.

But the House-passed legislation included a Dole-sponsored amendment to provide an exemption only in cases where the procedure would be required to save the life of the mother. "A broader exception," Dole wrote Clinton, "would simply defeat the purpose of the bill, which is to stop this grisly procedure."

Under the abortion method in question -- called "intact dilation and evacuation" by doctors -- the fetus' skull is drained to allow it to fit through the birth canal. A conservative estimate is that some 500 procedures of this kind are performed yearly, though critics say the number is much higher.


"It's not a termination of a pregnancy, it's's an extermination of a defenseless little life," longtime abortion foe Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) argued during House floor debate. The bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Charles Candady (R-Fla.) warned a Clinton veto would demonstrate the president is "an extremist on abortion."

The bill's opponents say it would reopen the era of back-alley abortions. "We urge President Clinton to veto this legislation and preserve the ability of women and their physician to make sound medical judgement free of political interference," acting Planned Parenthood president Jane Johnson said.

Final vote on the bill was 286-129, a veto-proof majority. Support came from 214 Republicans and 72 Democrats, including minority leader Richard Gephardt. Voting against were 113 Democrats, 15 Republicans and one independent.

"It's not going to be an issue in campaigns," predicted New York Democrat Rep. Charles Schumer, who voted against the bill. "Believe me, it's too arcane and too gruesome."

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