Lawmakers Back Away From House Vote on Roe v. Wade


House Democrats today backed away from a proposal to force a House vote on an endorsement of Roe v. Wade. If the vote had occurred, it would have been the first-ever House vote on Roe.

National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said that if the anticipated vote had occurred, the House would have rejected the pro-Roe resolution. “With many federal courts ruling that Roe v. Wade protects even partial-birth abortion, more and more lawmakers of both parties are seeing the extremism of Roe v. Wade and recognizing that it needs to be changed,” Johnson said.

On October 21, 1999, the Senate narrowly (51-47) adopted a Harkin amendment, expressing the view that Roe v. Wade “secures an important constitutional right, and such decision should not be overturned,” to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (S. 1692). The Senate’s action created a procedural opportunity for pro-abortion forces in the House to force a vote on the same language, in the form of a “motion to instruct the conferees” to accept the Harkin Amendment. On April 25, Senator Harkin gave a speech on the Senate floor in which he lambasted the House Republican leadership for allegedly postponing the opportunity for a vote “to instruct the House conferees to support my amendment in conference, thus putting the House on record, once and for all, as to whether or not they support Roe v. Wade. . . . So today I am challenging the House Republican leadership to allow a vote on our amendment.” (Congressional Record, April 25, page S2833)

The motion that Sen. Harkin demanded was the prerogative of the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, but it was in order only today, immediately after the House voted to request a conference committee with the Senate on the bill – and the motion was not made.

A recent (March 30-April 2) Gallup poll found that 69% of Americans believe abortion should generally be illegal after the first three months of pregnancy – but Roe mandates abortion on demand for the first six months (and abortion for emotional “health” even in the final three months). A 1998 poll by the Center for Gender Equality (whose president is Faye Wattleton, formerly president of Planned Parenthood) found that 53% of American women want abortion to be legal to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest (or not legal at all).