Canton Repository

November 6, 2003

Massillon resident on hand to see Bush sign abortion legislation

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Looking on as President Bush signed into law a ban on partial-birth abortion Wednesday was a thrill of a lifetime, said Derrick Wyman, president of Stark County Right to Life.

“This has been awesome. This has really been cool,” said Wyman, a Massillon resident who is a sophomore at Walsh University in North Canton.

Wyman flew in Tuesday after learning the day before that he could attend the signing. He wrangled an invitation with the help of a friend who has a friend with a job in the White House, he said.

The ban is the first federal law to restrict the right to an abortion since the Supreme Court ruled the procedure to be constitutionally protected 30 years ago.

The law prohibits abortion procedures in which a fetus is partially delivered, either head first or feet first, before it is killed. Congress has passed earlier versions of the ban twice before but they were vetoed by former President Clinton.

“For years, a terrible form of violence has been directed against children who are inches from birth, while the law looked the other way,” Bush told more than 300 abortion opponents from around the nation. “Today, at last, the American people and our government have confronted the violence and come to the defense of the innocent child.”

Even before the signing, abortion-rights supporters filed challenges to the ban in federal courts in New York, San Francisco, and Omaha, Neb. They argue the ban is an unconstitutional attack on a woman’s right to obtain a safe abortion.

In Nebraska, U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf issued a temporary restraining order blocking the ban from applying to four abortion-rights doctors who filed suit, citing concerns that the law lacked any health exception.

“I’m glad that the president has decided to stop hiding his true colors on this issue,” said Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, following the ceremony. “Any shred of doubt that this is the most anti-choice president this country has ever had has been convincingly erased.”

The measure provides an exception when a mother’s life is in danger, but not to preserve the health of a woman, as abortion defenders demand. Opponents contend that the procedure is never medically necessary, and therefore a health exception is not needed.

Among lawmakers attending the signing were Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, a key co-sponsor of the ban, and Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, who sponsored the House version of the legislation.

Several GOP leaders and one Democrat, Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, also joined Bush when he signed the bill.

Wyman has been to Washington several times before, but he said this was the first time he heard Bush speak in person.

“It was inspiring to all of us to see our leader, the president, talk about the sanctity of life and the importance of creating a culture of life,” he said.

Wyman said the success in getting the ban enacted into law suggests to him that the public has become more attuned to the dignity of life. But he added that more education of the public is necessary to build a consensus that Roe v. Wade, the court decision that legalized abortion, should be overturned.

Bush, who received loud applause and several standing ovations during his 11-minute address, vowed that his administration would “vigorously defend this law against any who would try to overturn it in the courts.”

DeWine and Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, expressed hope the Supreme Court would not strike down the ban, as it did a similar Nebraska statute.

“We believe we wrote a constitutional bill,” said DeWine, who added that he couldn’t predict what the court would do.

DeWine said he wouldn’t be surprised if opponents get a court-ordered delay in enforcing the law until it is reviewed by the judiciary.

“It only takes one federal judge, and there are hundreds across the country,” he said.

In eastern Ohio, Reps. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, and Tim Ryan, D-Warrenville, voted for the partial-birth ban.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, voted against it.