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Abortion Procedures

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Publication Date: November 1997

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: 95-1101

Topic: Health (Health services for women)


The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997, H.R. 1122 was vetoed by President Clinton on October 10, 1997. This legislation would have made it a federal crime, punishable by fine and/or incarceration, for a physician to perform a partial birth abortion unless it was necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury. The bill permitted a defendant to seek a hearing before the State Medical Board on whether the physician’s conduct was necessary to save the life of the mother. H.R.1122 defined a partial birth abortion as “an abortion in which the person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing the fetus and completing the delivery.” In his veto message to Congress, the President indicated that he vetoed H.R. 1122 for “exactly the same reasons” he vetoed similar legislation, H.R.1833, in April 1996. With that 1996 veto, the President
asserted that if Congress presented him with a bill amended to add an exception for partial birth abortions for “serious health consequences,” to the mother, he would sign it. Congress did not attempt to override the veto of H.R.1122 before it adjourned, but do intend to try to override it in the second session. The partial-birth abortion legislation has stimulated a great deal of controversy. Disputes about what the procedure should be called (such as, partial-birth abortion or intact dilation and extraction), how and when it is performed, at what point in the procedure the fetus dies, and what abortion procedures would be prohibited by the legislation have been debated. However, little, iif any, data have been published in the medical literature about the procedure. This report provides a brief overview of the abortion methods currently in use for which data have been published and some positions on the partial birth abortion legislation.