WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate rejected March 8 an effort to prevent pro-life protesters from filing for bankruptcy when courts fine them.
The pro-life victory came on an amendment offered by Sen. Charles Schumer, D.-N.Y., whose proposal had held up approval of bankruptcy reform legislation in the past.
The Senate defeated Schumer’s amendment by a 53-46 vote. Sens. Robert Byrd, D.-W.Va., and Ben Nelson, D.-Neb., were the only Democrats to oppose the amendment. Four Republicans voted for the amendment: Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island; Susan Collins and Olympia Snow, both of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
Senate opposition to the measure was based not only on its treatment of peaceful pro-life demonstrators but on the likelihood it would again result in the House of Representatives rejecting the bankruptcy bill to which it was attached.
In floor debate, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, called it a “classic poison pill amendment.”
“Injecting the polarizing politics of abortion into the bankruptcy bill, most would have to agree, does not appear to be calculated to help the passage of the bankruptcy bill,” Hatch said.
In 2002, the Senate approved the bankruptcy legislation with Schumer’s amendment attached. Pro-lifers in the House, however, led a charge that killed the bill.
Pro-lifers applauded the Schumer amendment’s long-awaited defeat.
“Had this measure been voted into law, it would have relegated Americans who value life to the status of second-class citizens,” Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said in a written statement. “This type of attack is insulting and degrading — pro-life people deserve the same protections as everyone else.”
Schumer’s amendment, in essence, applies the principles of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act to bankruptcy law. The FACE Act, which was enacted in 1994, criminalized nonviolent protests at abortion clinics and empowered clinics to file civil suits for hefty sums against protesters who had been convicted of a crime.
With the Schumer amendment out of the way, the Senate is expected to pass the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act without a major problem.