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Saturday, March 27, 2004  

Law: Bush administration assails abortion

Congress deems fetus separate victim

Fetuses of any age are now a step closer to being considered people.

WASHINGTON, March 25 — The Senate approved legislation on Thursday making it a separate offense to harm the fetus in a federal crime committed against a pregnant woman, sending the measure to President Bush for his signature.

Opponents denounced the bill, adopted on a vote of 61 to 38, as an effort to undermine the constitutional right to abortion by recognizing the fetus as a person.

The House passed the measure on Feb. 26, 254 to 163.

The putative point of the legislation is be able to prosecute perpetrators of violent crimes against women twice if the women are pregnant when they are violated. The real point of the legislation is to give a fetus separate standing from the woman carrying it. That is, of course, the fundamental requirement for deeming abortion murder. If the fetus is a person, the individuals responsible for terminating a pregnancy, both the pregnant woman and the doctor, are as guilty of murder as the perpetrator of a homicide with a gun or knife.

The anti-abortion forces have a long way to go before they can impose that perspective on the populace. This legislation, called Unborn Victims of Violence Act, is a step down that road. Coupled with the ban on late term abortions, it shows us where we can expect to go in regard to the right to abortion if George W. Bush is reelected.

Opponents of the proposal, while saying they sympathized with the desire to severely punish anyone who would attack pregnant women, said they were troubled by the definition of the "child in utero" covered under the bill as "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and others said they believed that once that definition was written into federal law it would ultimately be used as an argument to overturn existing laws protecting abortion rights.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, likely Democrat nominee for the presidential race, voted against the bill.

Partial birth abortion case begins Monday

Samantha Blackmon, at Dr. B's Blog, has been following the Bush administration's determined efforts to pry information about women who have had late term abortions from hospitals. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is deeply opposed to abortion, has not left a stone unturned in his quest. Samantha muses about the issue at Blog Sisters.

A month ago, Ashcroft ordered the release of abortion records (edited of course) during the course of an investigation of partial birth abourtion. Well, a 'federal judge ordered the University of Michigan Health System on Friday to turn over edited abortion records for possible inclusion in a case about a law that bans a particular abortion procedure." The Justice dept. is claiming that these records are central to the claim by some doctors that the procedure may be, a times, medically necessary. Excuse the conspiracy theorist in me, but I have a hard time believing that under the current administration any such records would be used to further an argument against the wishes of the White House.

Whether the records should be released, with the names of the women blacked out according to the Justice Department, has been a football in the courts. The latest appellate ruling was yesterday. Well-known jurist Richard Posner [pictured] rejected the government's contention that it needs the medical records of women who have had partial birth abortions.

Chicago's best-known federal judge late Friday shot down the U.S. government's attempt to get records of 45 women who had late-term abortions at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

That means the government will have none of the medical records it sought as a case begins in New York on Monday that could determine the future of Congress' Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.

The National Abortion Federation and seven doctors sued to block enforcement of the ban on the procedure known medically as "intact dilation and extraction" -- removing a fetus from the uterus while it is still alive.

. . .A New York federal judge ordered three hospitals to comply with subpoenas. They have not and plan to appeal. On Friday he ordered New York Presbyterian Hospital to surrender records by noon Monday. A Michigan court ordered a hospital there to comply, but the hospital said the doctor had not performed any abortions that met the subpoena's criteria. A Philadelphia hospital has challenged the subpoena, but there has been no ruling yet.

It seems to me the courts could rule on this issue based on expert testimony. We will see if that happens when the case is called Monday.

4:05 PM