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Abortion ban needed health exemptions

March 19, 2003

Staff editorial

Last week the Senate voted to ban partial-birth abortions, a political move that was eight years in the making. The procedure, which is performed when a fetus is between 20 and 26 weeks old, is controversial among abortion proponents and opponents alike because the fetus has reached a point where it is potentially viable.

Two rewrites proposed for the bill -- one, an exemption in cases where the mother's health is in danger, and the other, a revision based on a 2000 Supreme Court decision outlawing a similar bill in Nebraska -- were rejected. The bill soon will be sent to the House of Representatives for approval.

By 20 weeks, a woman has had sufficient time to decide whether she wants to keep a baby. Furthermore, partial-birth abortions border on the inhumane because the fetus has a chance of survival if it is born prematurely, and part of the baby's body is outside of the mother before termination occurs.

These two facts aside, the Senate has neglected to take into account the well being of a child after it is born. A mother who is seriously ill while carrying a child not only faces the possibility of making her child ill as well, but she also must deal with the fact that she may die, leaving her child motherless. Women have the right to choose their medical treatment, which includes terminating a life-threatening pregnancy or one that potentially has long-term health risks.

A general ban on partial-birth abortions is a reasonable way to meet both sides of the abortion debate in the middle. However, refusing to add the 'health of the mother' exemption places the lives of women and their unborn children at risk, and the House should keep this in mind when considering the bill. If the bill is approved without the exemption, then the Supreme Court should step in to ensure that women's rights are protected.