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10/15/97 President vetoes abortion ban again, uses reasoning refuted by doctors

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Clinton again has vetoed a bill banning a gruesome abortion procedure, using reasoning discredited by the medical community.
It was the second time in 18 months Clinton had rejected the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act. The president’s action came despite a veto-proof majority in the House of Representatives and a near veto-proof majority in the Senate.
Congress is not expected to attempt a veto override until next year.
He vetoed the legislation, Clinton said in a written statement, because it “does not contain an exception to the measure’s ban that will adequately protect the lives and health of the small group of women in tragic circumstances who need an abortion performed at a late stage of pregnancy to avert death or serious injury.”
The American Medical Association, however, endorsed the legislation earlier this year. More than 400 physicians, including former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, have said the procedure “is never medically necessary to protect a mother’s health or her future fertility. On the contrary, this procedure can pose a significant threat to both.”
The bill includes an exception to protect the mother’s life.
The procedure banned by the bill involves the delivery of an intact baby feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the baby’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain. The collapse of the skull enables easier removal of the dead child. The method is used normally on babies during the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.
“Partial-birth abortion is never necessary,” Rep. Charles Canady, R.-Fla., chief sponsor of the bill, said in a written statement. Clinton “is unmoved by the facts,” he said. “How could jamming scissors into the back of a baby’s head be required for the health of the mother? It makes no sense.”
Will Dodson, director of public policy for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the veto was “very much expected but nevertheless very disappointing. Every argument which has been set forth by the pro-abortion lobby has been completely refuted. Nevertheless, some of our nation’s political leaders, including the president, continue to follow the counsel of the most extreme abortion advocates without offering any plausible explanation for doing so.”
Ban supporters must “focus our efforts on the very realistic goal of accomplishing an override in both the House and Senate,” Dodson said.
The president acted Oct. 10, only two days after the House adopted the bill by a 296-132 vote. Seventy-nine Democrats voted for it, while eight Republicans voted against it.
In May, the Senate passed the bill 64-36, three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override.
In addition to the procedure being unnecessary, bill supporters also say the president’s health exception would gut the ban, because the Supreme Court in 1973 defined health for abortion purposes to include “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.”
Ironically, the same day the president vetoed the ban, he signed a proclamation designating Oct. 12 as National Children’s Day. The proclamation includes: “With the birth of every child, the world becomes new again. Within each new infant lies enormous potential — potential for loving, for learning and for making life better for others. But this potential must be nurtured.”
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said in a written response to the proclamation, “Why can’t (Clinton) recognize that it is radically inconsistent with that appeal to permit the brutal killing of a mostly delivered infant in a partial-birth abortion?”
There are no verifiable figures for the frequency of such abortions, but the latest estimates are the procedure occurs at least 3,000 to 5,000 times a year in the United States. In opposing the bill, abortion advocates previously had contended it was used only about 500 times annually.
Clinton initially vetoed the bill in April 1996. In September of last year, the House overrode his veto by a 285-137 vote. Though the Senate gained three votes from its earlier action, its 57-41 tally a week after the House’s override fell well short of two-thirds.
In May of this year, Southern Baptist Convention President Tom Elliff and nine former SBC presidents sent a letter to Clinton asking him to reconsider his “continued defense of the killing of living premature babies by the brutal partial-birth abortion method.”
Last year’s veto by Clinton, a member of a Southern Baptist church in Little Rock, Ark., prompted Jim Henry, then president of the SBC, and 11 former SBC presidents to ask the president in a letter to “repent of your veto.”