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February 12, 2007

House of Representatives: Animals Before People

Animal Fighting Bill Approved After Abortion Detour
The House Judiciary Committee today approved legislation to boost federal penalties for transporting animals across state lines for the purpose of engaging in animal fights, after a brief debate on abortion.

The committee approved the measure (HR 137) by voice vote. The panel turned aside an amendment by former chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., that would have appended legislation to make it a federal crime to take a minor across state lines for an abortion to circumvent state parental notification and consent laws.

The underlying bill, sponsored by California Republican Elton Gallegly, also would make buying and selling animals for such purposes a crime. The Senate passed similar animal fighting legislation last year, but Sensenbrenner blocked the underlying measure from advancing in the House in the 109th Congress.

Sensenbrenner argued that boosting the relevant penalties from misdemeanors to felonies would strain the resources of federal prosecutors.

Supporters expect the animal fighting measure, for which Gallegly has 298 co-sponsors, to sail through Congress this year. A related bill (S 261) is pending in the Senate.

CQ Today continued:

"I recognize we are meeting here today to consider a bill to protect chickens," Sensenbrenner said. "But isn't protecting our nation's young women ... equally, if not more important, than our dinner entree?"

In the 109th Congress, both the House and Senate passed legislation on the transportation of minors across state lines for abortions. Rather than clear the Senate-passed bill for President Bush's signature, however, the House amended it with a modified version of its measure.

The House language contained a section, not in the original Senate legislation, that would establish penalties for doctors who perform an abortion on a minor from another state in violation of her state's parental notification laws. A doctor would have to notify the parents in person or by certified mail 24 hours before performing an abortion on any out-of-state minor. That section scuttled the measure in the Senate.

Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Va., made a point of order that Sensenbrenner's amendment was not germane to the animal fighting bill. Chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., sustained the point of order. Sensenbrenner appealed Conyers' ruling, and Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., moved to table Sensenbrenner's appeal. The committee voted 18-14 to table the appeal.

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