President Clinton has twice vetoed legislation to ban the
practice of partial-birth abortion. Following is the letter sent to him by the
Cardinals of the United States subsequent to the first veto in April of 1996.
This legislation can still be passed, and some
helpful resources are available for doing so.
NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS
3211 Fourth Street NE, Washington DC
(202) 541-3100 FAX (202) 541-3166
Most Reverend Anthony M. Pilla. D.D., M.A.
Bishop of Cleveland
April 16, 1996
President William Clinton
The White House
Dear President Clinton,
It is with deep sorrow and dismay that we respond to your
April 10 veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
Your veto of this bill is beyond comprehension for those who
hold human life sacred. It will ensure the continued use of the most heinous act
to kill a tiny infant just seconds from taking his or her first breath outside
At the veto ceremony you told the American people that you
"had no choice but to veto the bill." Mr. President, you and you alone had the
choice of whether or not to allow children, almost completely born, to be killed
brutally in partial-birth abortions. Members of both Houses of Congress made
their choice. They said NO to partial-birth abortions. American women voters
have made their choice. According to a February 1996 poll by Fairbank, Maslin,
Maullin & Associates, 78 percent of women voters said NO to partial-birth
abortions. Your choice was to say YES and to allow this killing more akin to
infanticide than abortion to continue.
During the veto ceremony you said you had asked Congress to
change H.R. 1833 to allow partial-birth abortions to be done for "serious
adverse health consequences" to the mother. You added that if Congress had
included that exception, "everyone in the world will know what we're talking
On the contrary, Mr. President, not everyone in the world
would know that "health," as the courts define it in the context of abortion,
means virtually anything that has to do with a woman's overall "well being." For
example, most people have no idea that if a woman has an abortion because she is
not married, the law considers that an abortion for a "health" reason.
Similarly, if a woman is "too young" or "too old," if she is
emotionally upset by pregnancy, or if pregnancy interferes with schooling or
career, the law considers those situations as "health" reasons for abortion. In
other words, as you know and we know, an exception for "health" means abortion
You say there is a difference between a "health" exception and
an exception for "serious adverse health consequences." Mr. President, what is
the difference--legally--between a woman's being too young and being "seriously"
too young? What is the difference--legally--between being emotionally upset and
being "seriously" emotionally upset? From your study of this issue, Mr.
President, you must know that most partial-birth abortions are done for reasons
that are purely elective.
It was instructive that the veto ceremony included no
physician able to explain how a woman's physical health is protected by almost
fully delivering her living child, and then killing that child in the most
inhumane manner imaginable before completing the delivery. As a matter of fact,
a partial-birth abortion presents a health risk to the woman. Dr. Warren Hern,
who wrote the most widely used textbook on how to perform abortions, has said of
partial-birth abortions: "I would dispute any statement that this is the safest
procedure to use."
Mr. President, all abortions are lethal for unborn children,
and many are unsafe for their mothers. This is even more evident in the
late-term, partial-birth abortion, in which children are killed cruelly, their
mothers placed at risk, and the society that condones it brutalized in the
As Catholic bishops and as citizens of the United States, we
strenuously oppose and condemn your veto of H.R.1833 which will allow
partial-birth abortions to continue.
In the coming weeks and months, each of us, as well as our
bishops' conference, will do all we can to educate people about partial-birth
abortions. We will inform them that partial-birth abortions will continue
because you chose to veto H.R. 1833.
We will also urge Catholics and other people of good will
-including the 65% of self-described "pro-choice" voters who oppose
partial-birth abortions--to do all that they can to urge Congress to override
this shameful veto.
Mr. President, your action on this matter takes our nation to
a critical turning point in its treatment of helpless human beings inside and
outside the womb. It moves our nation one step further toward acceptance of
infanticide. Combined with the two recent federal appeals court decisions
seeking to legitimize assisted suicide, it sounds the alarm that public
officials are moving our society ever more rapidly to embrace a culture of
Writing this response to you in unison is, on our part,
virtually unprecedented. It will, we hope, underscore our resolve to be
unremitting and unambiguous in our defense of human life.
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin
Archbishop of Chicago
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Cardinal James Hickey
Archbishop of Washington
Cardinal William Keeler
Archbishop of Baltimore
Cardinal Bernard Law
Archbishop of Boston
Cardinal Roger Mahony
Archbishop of Los Angeles
Cardinal Adam Maida
Archbishop of Detroit
Cardinal John O'Connor
Archbishop of New York
Most Rev. Anthony Pilla
President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion