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Clock ticking on pro-life, pro-family
bills as House and Senate reconvene

WASHINGTON (BP)–Congress will reconvene beginning Sept. 5 with legislation supported by pro-life and pro-family Americans hanging in the balance.

The Senate and House of Representatives probably will have little more than a month, if that much time, to deal with legislation before the November election. Republican leaders in Congress long ago set Oct. 6 as the target date for adjournment. They may seek to adjourn earlier, however, to send their party’s members home as soon as possible to campaign in what appears will be a tight race for control of both houses.

A bill intended to prevent the transportation of underage girls across state lines to obtain abortions in order to avoid parental involvement laws in the girls’ home states will be at the forefront of pro-life and pro-family attention when Congress resumes business.

The Senate went into recess Aug. 3 with Democrats continuing to use a procedural tactic to forestall the Child Custody Protection Act (CCPA) from progressing to congressional negotiators.

The Senate voted 65-34 for the measure July 25, but Democrats objected to Majority Leader Bill Frist’s normally routine request to forward the bill to a conference committee of Senate and House members. The conferees would have the task of working out differences between two measures that are similar but not identical. The Democrats again blocked Frist’s attempt to send the bill to a conference committee Aug. 3.

President Bush has said he will sign the legislation if it arrives on his desk.

Like the CCPA, the House version — the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act — is designed to protect the rights of parents in states that have enacted either parental notification or consent laws regarding abortions for minor girls.

Some minors travel from or are transported from states with parental involvement laws to neighboring states that have no such laws in order to undergo abortions. Abortion clinics in states without parental involvement laws sometimes advertise their services in adjacent states that have such laws.

“We are so close to passage of this bill,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Everyone who believes parents have a right to know if their daughter is about to end the life of her innocent baby and be subjected herself to the life-long trauma of an abortion should contact his senators immediately and insist that they get this bill to the president without any more shameful delays.”

There are 29 states that have effective parental involvement laws that are not being blocked by courts, according to the National Right to Life Committee.

Bills that await passage by only one chamber when Congress reconvenes include:

— The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which seeks to ban most online gambling. The House voted 317-93 for the measure in July, but the Senate has not acted on it.

“We have been working on an Internet gambling bill for years,” Duke told Baptist Press. “Meanwhile, gambling predators have been suckering millions of Americans into losing billions of dollars. It’s up to the Senate to get this job done and shut down most of these gambling sites. It would be tragic to come this close and fail. The senators just need to hear from the voters.”

— The Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act, which would fund research to develop embryo-like stem cells without creating or knowingly harming human embryos. The Senate approved it in a 100-0 vote in July. Though the House voted 273-154 for the bill, it fell 12 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed under the rules that applied in this case. The House possibly could vote again on the measure under other rules.

“The failure of the House to pass this bill was one of the most disgraceful acts I have witnessed in Washington politics,” Duke said. “The congressmen and congresswomen who voted against this bill were more interested in advancing their own agenda than in doing everything possible to find cures for suffering people. This bill will provide federal funding for stem cell research that does not destroy embryos. The House should be pressured to take this back up and do the right thing for the millions of people waiting for cures.”

— The ADVANCE Democracy Act, which would promote democracy in other countries and aim to end dictatorships without military intervention. The House approved the measure as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act last year, but the Senate has not voted on it in this congressional session.

— A measure that would permit military chaplains to pray in Jesus’ name at public events. The legislation, which would protect the rights of chaplains to pray according to their consciences, passed the House in May as part of a Department of Defense authorization bill. A conference report reconciling differences between the House and Senate versions of the authorization bill must be drafted and approved.

Legislation that has yet to pass either house in this session despite support by the ERLC and other organizations includes:

— The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require an abortion doctor to inform a woman at least 20 weeks into her pregnancy of evidence about the severe pain her unborn child would experience during the procedure and to offer anesthesia for her baby if she still chooses to have an abortion.

— The Human Cloning Prohibition Act, which would ban cloning for both reproductive and research purposes.

— The RU 486 Suspension and Review Act, which would suspend the abortion drug’s sale while a review is conducted of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the pill.

— The Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which would restore protections to people of faith at work in such areas as clothing and time off for religious observances.

— The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which would authorize the FDA to control the manufacture, promotion and sale of tobacco products.

— The STOP Underage Drinking Act, which would approve a public service media campaign and other components of a coordinated attempt to reduce alcohol consumption by minors.

“All of these bills should be passed,” Duke said. “I can assure Southern Baptists that the ERLC will continue to press for passage of every one of them. We ask that all those who want to see our country become a more moral, healthy, God-honoring nation get involved and make themselves heard in Washington. Insisting on passage of these bills is a great way to get started.”