By Sunny Kaplan and Mark Binker
WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Constance Morella joined Maryland’s four House Democrats in an unsuccessful effort Wednesday to derail a ban on some late-term abortions.
The House voted 296-132 to send the Senate-passed bill to President Clinton, but Clinton has said he will veto the measure and Senate supporters are three votes short of the two-thirds needed to override the veto.
The bill would permit late-term abortions, which involve the partial extraction of a fetus, legs first, through the birth canal followed by a drainage of its skull, only to save a woman’s life.
Clinton and abortion rights groups insist upon an exception to the bill to allow the procedure if continuing a pregnancy would jeopardize a woman’s health.
Morella, the Montgomery County Republican, said the ban would be “unconstitutional” and that “we should not be meddling in doctors’ affairs.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Prince George’s, voted against the bill because it has no provision for the health of the woman beyond life-and-death situations, said Hoyer spokesman Jerry Irvine.
Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore, “does not feel that Congress should be micro-managing medical decisions,” said spokeswoman Susan Sullam.
Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, and Albert Wynn, D- Prince George’s, did not return telephone calls.
Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kent, and Robert Ehrlich Jr., R-Baltimore County, all voted for the ban.
“It would be inhumane to execute the most heinous criminal by stabbing them in the back of the head and sucking out their brain,” Bartlett said. “Then it can’t be right for an innocent, unborn child.”
Gilchrest said the ban “just reinforces that you shouldn’t do it.”
“From the doctors I talked to … as far as they were concerned, the procedure is unnecessary,” Gilchrest said. “If it is unnecessary, why do it.”
Ehrlich said according to physicians, “there is no need for it.”
The bill would subject doctors who perform the procedure, except to save a woman’s life, to fines and imprisonment for up to two years. The patient would not face criminal penalties.