Introduced by Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum, the measure would bar any physician from performing any abortion procedure that requires the partial birth of the fetus, unless the life of the mother is in jeopardy.
Santorum said that the bill is necessary to protect human life from a procedure that he considers to have little medical value.
"As we strive to build a culture that values every life, we must not overlook the weakest individuals among us and protect infants at their most vulnerable stages. Partial-birth abortion is a detestable procedure that affronts and insults human dignity," said Santorum.
"My hope is that the United States Congress will pass a bill this year that bans partial-birth abortion, which the President will sign. The PBA Ban of 2003 includes factual findings of Congress that clearly show that a partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary to preserve a woman's health, and should be banned."
Previous attempts to pass similar bans received enough votes to pass, but were vetoed by President Clinton. In the last Congress, then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., declined to bring the measure up for deliberation by the full Senate. With the GOP back in charge of the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., decided to bring the issue up almost immediately in the new term.
Opponents -- including Daschle -- have decried the new majority's decision not to pass a bill out of committee before bringing the bill to the Senate floor.
One such opponent -- Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. -- says that the measure is designed to further outlaw abortion in an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide.
"I want to expose this proposal for what it really is," Murray said on the Senate floor. "It's deceptive. It's extreme. It's unconstitutional. The other side wants you to think that this just affects one procedure in the third trimester, but that's not true. (The language) is so broad as to apply to other procedures."