Hoyer-Greenwood Proposal: Won't Stop Late-Term Abortions

Reps. Steny Hoyer and James Greenwood may offer the so-called "Late Term Abortion Restriction Act" (H.R. 2702) as an alternative to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2002 (H.R. 4965). This "alternative" purports to ban all post-viability abortions, including partial-birth abortions. However, the legislation would do nothing of the kind. It would not ban the majority of partial-birth abortions, which is the issue now before Congress, and would not ban late term abortions. In fact, the sponsors' "health" exception, which they admit includes "mental" health, would allow the elective destruction of unborn children up to and beyond the usual time of delivery.

Broad "health" exception would allow abortions even in last stages of pregnancy.
Abortion advocates insist on an exception to allow an abortion if (in the opinion of the abortion practitioner) it is necessary to avert "serious adverse health consequences" to the woman. This broad and vague term would do nothing to limit or prohibit any abortions. The sponsors admit that this includes "mental health." In a March 1997 press conference discussing an identical proposal, Rep. Steny Hoyer stated that such an exception also includes "psychological trauma."

Only the abortion practitioner determines viability and whether abortion is"medically necessary."
Viability, the point at which an unborn child is expected to survive outside the mother's womb with or without medical treatment, is usually reached between 23 and 25 weeks of gestation. Viability is a prediction regarding whether an unborn child will survive upon leaving the womb. The Hoyer/Greenwood bill allows the attending abortionist sole power to determine whether a child is viable, and whether the mother's condition warrants an abortion, even in the last stages of pregnancy.

Under the Hoyer-Greenwood amendment, not one partial-birth abortion would be prohibited.
Most partial-birth procedures occur in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy (20-24 weeks), a time frame largely unaddressed by this bill. In any case, the nature of the partial-birth procedure makes discussions of "viability" irrelevant. By definition, partial-birth abortion kills a child who is mostly, sometimes quite literally, "alive and kicking" outside the womb. The victims of this procedure are living infants, even if some are being delivered prematurely.

Proponents also claim that the bill is similar to "post-viability" bans in 40 states. Unfortunately, such laws have not banned a single abortion because of loopholes like those described above. In 1979, law professor John Noonan (later a federal appellate judge) correctly described the "restrictions" placed on abortion in 1973 by Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton: "For the nine months of life within the womb, the child was at the [pregnant woman's] disposal – with two restrictions. She must find a licensed clinic after month three; and after her child was viable, she must find an abortionist who believed she needed an abortion." John T. Noonan, A Private Choice 12 (1979).

Since 1973, the Supreme Court has reined in some of the most extreme consequences of Roe and Doe, allowing laws which require testing for viability (Webster, 1979) and laws which prohibit late-term abortion without a "mental health" exception (Casey, 1992). By ignoring these developments, the Hoyer-Greenwood proposal actually marks a step backward in abortion policy. As a ban on late-term abortions it is a sham.