WASHINGTON – Maryland’s senators voted Thursday with the majority of their fellow Democrats to let stand President Clinton’s veto of the partial-birth abortion ban.
Both Senators remained consistent with the votes they cast against the ban when it passed the Senate in December.
“[Sen. Barbara Mikulski] believes this is a medical decision to be made by a doctor, not a political decision to be made by politicians,” a spokesperson for Mikulski, D-Baltimore, said after the vote.
The Senate’s vote was 57-41 to override, just nine short of the two-thirds majority of present and voting senators needed for an override. Twelve Democrats joined 45 Republicans in voting to override. Voting against were 35 Democrats and six Republicans.
Under the bill, any physician who completed a partial-birth abortion would have been subject to fines and/or imprisonment for up to two years. An exemption was made if the procedure was needed to save the woman’s life and no other procedure could have been used.
But the bill did not allow a partial-birth abortion for women who faced serious health risks due to pregnancy.
“The traumatic situation in which the life of the mother or her serious health interest are at stake were not provided for in this bill,” Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, said through his press secretary, Kara Peterman.
Last week, the House voted 285-137 to override the president’s veto.
Maryland’s four Democrats and Rep. Constance Morella, R- Bethesda, voted in support of Clinton’s action, and the remaining three Republicans opposed him. House members explained their reasons in interviews on the eve of the Senate vote.
“I don’t think Congress should be making decisions about [doctor’s procedures],” Morella said. “It’s not an issue that should come before Congress.”
Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, agreed with Morella, but said the procedure went beyond what is safe.
“I see a problem with Congress dictating medical procedures,” Gilchrest said. “But … we were encouraged by the vast majority of the [medical field] to get involved in this issue.”
A partial-birth abortion, as defined by the bill, involves a procedure in which a doctor “partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing the fetus and completing the delivery.” The procedure is used primarily during the last 20 weeks of a pregnancy.
The doctor dilates the woman’s cervix and delivers the fetus head first. Once the fetus’ head is in the birth canal, the doctor punctures the head and empties the cranial cavity.
“A civilized society simply cannot permit babies… to purposely be born for the sole purpose of killing them,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, in a written statement. “Killing innocent babies in this way is beyond the pale.”
But Maryland’s House Democrats viewed the matter as a choice that should be left to the woman.
“It’s a personal choice,” said Anthony W. McCarthy, spokesman for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore. “[Cummings] sided with the president on this issue.” -30-