January 31, 1998 in City

Passions Stirred By Abortion Sterk Calls Procedure ‘Heinous And Evil’; Critics Contend His Bill Is Unconstitutional

Associated Press
 

A proposed public vote on outlawing “partial-birth” abortions stirred emotions at a House hearing Friday.

Opponents of the procedure called it heinous and infanticide, while abortion-rights activists said government has no business making such personal medical and moral decisions for a woman and her family.

The measure, along with a bill requiring advance parental notification before a minor gets an abortion, is the focus of anti-abortion legislators this year.

House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee, and Senate Majority Leader Dan McDonald, R-Bellevue, predicted passage of the measure, but said final votes still are being counted.

The plan is to bypass Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, a staunch defender of abortion rights, and place the measure directly on the statewide November ballot.

Rep. Mark Sterk, R-Veradale, and other backers said polls show heavy public support for ending the late-term procedure that critics call “partial-birth” abortion.

“To partially deliver a baby and then kill it is a heinous and evil crime,” Sterk said. A veteran police officer, Sterk said if anyone tried the same thing after a baby had been fully born, they’d be arrested for murder. A few minutes earlier and a few inches up the birth canal, the fetus has no protection, he said.

Several witnesses described the procedure in graphic detail, and one said, “This should make everyone want to throw up.”

Doctors and advocates testified on both sides of the issue. That led Rep. Dow Constantine, D-Seattle, to say citizen-legislators with no medical training have no business passing laws on specific medical procedures, particularly with the medical community divided.

Dr. Joseph Mancuso, representing the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Dr. Suzanne Poppema, a college professor and medical director of the Women’s Health Clinic in Seattle, said doctors need the freedom to use their best judgment when a woman is in distress. Sometimes a Caesarean section might not be a good option, and the “intact dilation and extraction” method might be needed as a last resort, they said.

“This is Big Government at its most dangerous,” said Lisa Stone, director of the Northwest Women’s Law Center.

But opponents said the procedure is barbaric and should be prohibited unless the mother’s life is clearly at risk. If women want abortions, they should make that choice earlier in the pregnancy, said Camille De Blasi of Human Life of Washington.

“What she has is the right to an abortion; what she does not have is the right to a dead child,” she said, adding, “I think it should be called infanticide.”

Dr. Donovan Hanson of Burien, said he was unaware of a single documented case where the procedure was clearly necessary to save a mother’s life.

Stone said 11 states had approved bans on the “partial-birth” procedure, but that in all eight states where legal appeals have been lodged, the courts have thrown out the ban.

She said Sterk’s bill, House Bill 2395, is likewise unconstitutional and will fail any court test.

The counterpart committee in the Senate is taking up abortion-related bills next Tuesday, including a measure to require parental notification before a minor can get an abortion.

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OTHER STATES

Lisa Stone, director of the Northwest Women’s Law Center, said 11 states had approved bans on the “partial-birth” procedure, but that in all eight states where legal appeals have been lodged, the courts have thrown out the ban.

© Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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