WASHINGTON (March 21, 2000) -- In a letter sent March 20, Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore urged the House of Representatives to support the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
The Cardinal is Chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities. A vote on the legislation, H.R. 3660, is expected in early April.
"This is a procedure more akin to infanticide than abortion, wherein an infant is killed after being forcibly partially delivered outside his or her mother's body," Cardinal Keeler wrote. . "To allow this to continue violates every principle of human rights and decency this country has always stood for. So unique and brutal is this procedure that a majority of Americans who are pro-life as well as those who describe themselves as 'pro-choice' agree that it ought to be banned."
This unusual consensus is reflected in the number of states which have moved to prohibit partial-birth abortions, Cardinal Keeler observed. He noted that bans on partial-birth abortions have taken legal effect in eight states.
"While local or federal courts have enjoined many other state laws, claiming that they are 'vague,' this legislation is both clear and specific," the Cardinal said. "It bans the direct killing of a child who is partly delivered alive--a form of killing which the Supreme Court explicitly exempted from the scope of its Roe v. Wade decision, when it left intact a ban on the killing of a child in the process of parturition."
"It has become crystal clear over years of debate that partial-birth abortions are never medically necessary," Cardinal Keeler said. "Even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which opposes the ban, has acknowledged that it could find no situation in which it is necessary to save a woman's life or preserve her health (ACOG Statement of Policy, January 12, 1997)."
"Partial-birth abortion has only one purpose: to destroy the lives of children who are inches away from being completely born alive," Cardinal Keeler wrote. "Please vote for H.R. 3660, oppose all weakening amendments, and reject this indefensible procedure once and for all."
The first Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act approved by the U.S. House and Senate was vetoed by President Clinton in 1996. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997 met the same fate. Thus far, congressional efforts to override the President's veto have passed in the House but narrowly failed in the Senate. Last October, the Senate passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1999 by a vote of 63-34.
Full text of Cardinal Keeler's March 20 letter.