Round Two

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Republicans are wasting little time in reopening the debate over partial-birth abortions after a prominent abortion-rights activist admitted he lied about how often the procedure is performed. GOP leaders are busy lining up votes as the House prepares to once again take up a bill banning abortions using the controversial partial-birth technique. So far, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum says he's counted 62 'yes' votes, enough for Senate passage but still five short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. An opportunity to renew the debate opened up after after Ron Fitzsimmons, the executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers who was frequently used to support President Clinton's assurances the procedure is uncommon, said he lied about just how often the abortions occur. The admission, the GOP believes, gives the bill new life by making it clear the practice, anathema to the public, is more readily performed than previously believed. Republican optimism was high the revelation would encourage Clinton to reverse his opposition to the bill that he vetoed last year. Because of the news, proponents believe that the bill, identical to the one sent to the President last year, has a better chance of being passed into law, with or without Clinton's backing. "The latest disclosure is going to put a lot of pressure on both sides," says TIME's Karen Tumulty. "And a lot will fall on the Democrats, enough, possibly, to override a veto." Seeking to turn up the heat, the Christian Coalition has launched a grassroots lobbying campaign targeting up to 100 congressional districts in 36 states. Meanwhile, the Family Research Council also is running radio ads featuring pleas from GOP conservatives William Bennett and Jack Kemp for Congress to pass the bill quickly. After Fitzsimmons' surprise announcement, that's beginning to look more likely.