WASHINGTON (ABP) — Just before returning home for a month of campaigning prior to the Nov. 7 midterm elections, the Senate blocked a controversial House-passed abortion bill that social conservatives had pushed at the last minute.
Late the evening of Sept. 29, senators declined to invoke “cloture” — closing debate and moving to a substantive vote on a measure — on S. 403, the “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act.”
Supporters of the bill fell three votes short of the 60 needed to end debate and move to a final vote. The legislation was designed to keep adults from circumventing state laws that require a teen's parents be notified prior to an abortion being performed on her.
The act would have imposed fines, incarceration or both on adults who transport the minors across state lines for abortions to avoid such laws. It also would have imposed penalties on abortion providers who perform abortions on the teens.
Pro-life groups insisted the bill was necessary to protect parental rights for teens from states with parental-notification laws. Many of them pressured Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to force a Senate vote on the bill before Congress adjourned for its month-long pre-election recess.
The Senate had already passed a similar bill, but efforts to reconcile it with a more restrictive version that passed the House failed.
In an effort to get something on President Bush's desk before they adjourned, House leaders took up the Senate version of the bill Sept. 26 and amended it to reflect the stricter version the lower chamber had already passed. Social conservative groups then urged the senators to approve the new bill. But the Senate balked.
After the bill failed to get enough votes for cloture Sept. 29, abortion-rights opponents criticized Democratic senators who voted for the earlier bill but blocked the most recent version. President Bush almost certainly would have signed the bill into law had it passed.
“The only major piece of pro-life legislation considered by Congress this session fell victim to the deceptive and obstructionist tactics of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and his allies who first voted for the bill and then blocked it from getting to the president,” said Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, in a statement released shortly after the vote.
But abortion-rights advocates said the Senate's action was necessary because of the draconian restrictions in the legislation. They referred to it as the “Teen Endangerment Act.”
“In most instances, parents know about a teen's decision to terminate a pregnancy,” the National Abortion Federation said, in a press statement on the vote. “Unfortunately, parental involvement is not a realistic option for many teens who are in dysfunctional and abusive family situations. Family communications cannot be legislated. This bill would have put our most vulnerable teens at risk.”
Congress will return after Election Day for a “lame-duck” session to consider spending bills for the 2007 fiscal year. However, they are unlikely to consider the abortion bill or any other legislation during that session.