President Bush says he looks forward to signing into a law legislation banning a surgical procedure known as 'partial birth abortion.' Abortion rights groups are vowing to challenge the measure, passed by Congress this week, in court.
The Senate this week followed the lead of the House of Representatives and passed a bill that would ban partial birth abortion, a procedure carried out in the second or third trimester, in which a fetus is partially delivered before being killed. The measure would allow the procedure to save the life of the mother.
Pro-life supporters hailed the vote as a significant victory for their cause. "This is a historic day for life, for establishing and supporting the culture of life in the United States," said Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas.
Opponents, including Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, said the vote was a step toward making all abortions illegal. "What this whole thing is about is eventually saying 'women are murderers and they should go to jail, and doctors are their accomplices, and they should go to jail,'" she said.
It is an argument echoed by Jim Farrell, spokesman for the abortion-rights group, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "People are going to have to wake up and know what is at stake: the overthrow of legal abortion in America is at stake," he said.
Mr. Farrell's organization, and other abortion-rights groups, plan to challenge the measure in federal court, once it is signed into law.
He expressed confidence the court will issue an injunction to block enforcement of the measure. He cited a 2000 Supreme Court ruling, in which the justices struck down a similar law adopted in Nebraska as unconstitutional.
Pro-life groups do not expect the legal challenge to be easy.
Pia de Solenni, director of life and women's issues at the Family Resources Council said, "It is going to be a difficult challenge because rather than being a discussion about values, about morality, about justice, it is going to be a political discussion."
It is the third time the Congress has voted to ban partial-birth abortion. President Bill Clinton vetoed the measure twice, and Congress failed to find the two-thirds majority to override the vetoes.