Veto Override of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban

Mark Pattison

Document Publication: Catholic New York - New York, NY

Publication Date: September 26, 1996

Bishops and other pro-life leaders praised the House vote to override President Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and called on the Senate to follow the House example.

"I am very pleased," said a statement from Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua of Philadelphia.

"This vote is a significant step toward replacing our culture of death with one which values life."

He expressed his "sincere appreciation to the legislators who supported the override effort" and urged senators "to follow the lead of their colleagues in the House and the will of the people and vote to ban this procedure which is so close to infanticide."

"I congratulate the House of Representatives for its moral and civic leadership today by voting to overturn President Clinton's veto," said a statement from Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

"The practice of partial-birth abortion must stop if we are to be a civilized nation," the cardinal said. "No decent society can long endure lethal callousness toward any human beings, especially those who very little or very sick."

The House override vote Sept. 19 was 285-137. A two-thirds majority is needed in each chamber to override the veto. The Senate override vote was expected to be held before Congress adjourns at the end of September.

The Senate approved the ban, 54-44, last December, well short of the two-thirds margin needed to override. The U.S. bishops launched a postcard campaign at Catholic churches nationwide over the summer to urge Senate and House members to override the veto.

The bill contains an exception to save the life of the mother. Clinton said he vetoed it because it lacked a provision that would have given exceptions for health reasons.

Bishop Edward J. O'Donnell of Lafayette, La., gave his congratulations to the House in a statement.

"In the House, Democrats joined with Republicans and a number of people who usually vote pro-choice voted instead for the override," he said.

"We pray that the Senate will follow the example of the House of Representatives in hearing the concerns of their constituents."

"The House has rejected aborting babies in the fifth month or later--most of them perfectly healthy--by pulling them feet-first alive from the womb, puncturing the skull, and removing their brains," said National Right to Life Committee federal legislative director Douglas Johnson in a statement that described the procedure.

"Few of the House's actions are as significant as this one," said a statement from Father Frank Pavone, a priest of the New York Archdiocese who is national director of Priests for Life. "When the brutal killing of a baby is put forward as a 'medical procedure,' then it is time for the government to stop it."

Michael Ferguson, executive director of the Catholic Campaign for America, in praising the override, said in a statement, "The hierarchy of the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the campaign to educate American citizens about the medical facts of this heinous procedure, and their leadership has been unfailing."

Ferguson added, "Catholic Americans can be proud of the positive impact the Catholic Church has had on this pressing moral issue."

"Americans on both sides of the life debate have joined together to say that this cruel procedure goes too far," said a statement by Family Research Council president Gary Bauer.

Bauer added, "When the political elite use the bully pulpit to argue that life has no value unless it's healthy, planned and desired. society's weakest members become vulnerable."

Rep. Charles T. Canady, R-Fla., who sponsored the House version of the original bill, said in a statement, "A humane society has an obligation to stop this barbaric act which kills babies as they emerge from the womb. We have taken a critical step to stop this insanity and protect our children."

Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, in a statement, derided the timing of the vote-five months after Clinton's veto but six weeks before the election-and "the unprecedented intrusion by Congress into medical practice." -CNS

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