July 23, 2002
You will soon consider the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act (H.R. 4965). I write to urge you to support this bill and to oppose any weakening amendments, including the Hoyer/Greenwood bill (H.R. 2702) which may be offered as a substitute.
H.R. 4965 forbids a particularly cruel procedure that ends the lives of children who are inches away from birth. The House has three times approved similar bills banning this practice. The legislation passed Congress twice but was vetoed by President Clinton on both occasions. President Bush has said he will sign a bill to ban partial-birth abortion, so the time to enact this ban is now.
More than half the states have enacted laws to ban partial-birth abortion, and polls consistently show that the overwhelming majority of Americans (70 percent and more) support such a ban. Yet in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Stenberg v. Carhart, struck down Nebraska's ban on the procedure. In doing so, the Court effectively called into question the constitutionality of other state bans and the twice-passed federal ban.
H.R. 4965 responds to this question of constitutionality. First, the bill narrowly defines "partial birth abortion" as "an abortion in which (A) the person performing the abortion deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus; and (B) performs the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the partially delivered living fetus." This is a very precise and narrowly-worded definition which responds to the Court's concern about vagueness. Second, the bill addresses the Court's interest in protecting women's health. It presents Congress's findings, based on years of testimony, that partial-birth abortion is not necessary to preserve women's health and in fact may pose serious health risks.
Please vote for H.R. 4965, oppose all weakening amendments, and reject this indefensible and inhumane procedure once and for all.
Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua
Committee for Pro-Life Activities