by Steven Ertelt
March 8, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — In the first abortion battle of the new Congress, members of the Senate rejected a "poison pill" amendment to a bankruptcy bill that opponents say would have targeted pro-life protesters.
The Senate voted down an amendment by Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, that would prevent political protesters from using bankruptcy as a means of escaping payment for fines and penalties they incur by breaking the law.
Opposed by pro-life groups, lawmakers defeated the amendment on a 53-46 vote.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid asked senators to support the amendment.
"This amendment is not about abortion. It’s about holding those responsible who commit violent acts and believe they are above the law,” he said about the Schumer motion.
"I have been around here long enough to know a poison pill when I see one,” Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, responded.
Senator Jeff Sessions, (R-Alabama) said existing law already prevents a person convicted of wrongful conduct from using bankruptcy as a means of avoiding paying fines or debts.
"Bankruptcy reform is necessary and long overdue," pro-life Congressman Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania) in a statement following the vote. "But we should not use the push for reform as an opportunity to sneak in an attack on peaceful protesters."
Pitts said Schumer’s amendment is an attempt to target a group of "peaceful protesters who he doesn’t agree with." The congressman called the Senate’s action "a victory for free speech."
The Family Research Council issued a call to Senators on Monday to oppose the amendment.
"There is absolutely no justification for singling out pro-lifers from bankruptcy protections other than open bigotry against faithful, pro-life activists, who are not reputed to pose a threat to America’s financial institutions," says Tony Perkins, the group’s president.
"Other protesters, including those who support abortion, will remain protected by bankruptcy laws," Perkins explained. "Is this fair in America — are we, as advocates for life, now considered second-class Americans?"
The amendment tied up the bankruptcy bill in 2000 and 2002.