by Gail Quinn
October 24, 2003
Almost a decade ago, Americans learned about a particularly heinous abortion procedure – partial-birth abortion. This procedure was designed by abortionists to kill children in the process of delivery. The baby is delivered up to the head, which is then punctured so the brain can be sucked out.
On October 21, the U. S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to ban partial-birth abortion. Just a few weeks earlier the House of Representatives did the same, in a similarly decisive vote. This was not the first time Congress had passed such a ban. But unlike previous years, it was the first time the legislation faced no opposition from the White House; President Bush has promised to sign the ban into law.
This is truly an historic occasion. For over thirty years, since the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision, it has been legal to kill an unborn child for any reason, at any time and by any method. When the president signs the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, it will mark the enactment of the first federal law since Roe to actually prohibit an abortion procedure.
Arriving at this point has not been easy. Banning partial birth abortion has been a priority for the Catholic community in this country. On two occasions, Catholics flooded congressional offices with a total of over 47 million messages asking that partial-birth abortion be banned. Looking back, it's clear that this was a key moment in securing passage of the legislation. And while efforts to pass a federal ban continued, activists took the issue to the local level, playing a crucial role in passing partial-birth abortion bans in some 30 states.
There were setbacks and disappointments along the way, including two presidential vetoes of the federal ban. Yet Catholics and the larger pro-life community never wavered in their commitment to protect women and their unborn children from this brutal form of violence.
Abortion advocates have promised to challenge the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban in court. I'm not surprised. The courts have served as the refuge of abortion advocates. Time and again these advocates have failed to persuade the American people, through the normal democratic process, to accept their extreme agenda of abortion on demand, at any time, for any reason and by whatever method. Instead they must rely on the courts to impose their will on an unwilling nation.
Whatever the courts may decide cannot lessen what has been achieved. Beyond the ban itself, another important result of the long debate is that today Americans are more pro-life than when it began. Partial-birth abortion confronted the American people with the violent reality of abortion, and they did not like what they saw. As a result of this debate, the American people are more and more coming to understand that women and their unborn children deserve better than abortion.
For achieving a federal ban on partial-birth abortion, and again reaching the hearts and minds of the American people, the pro-life community –especially the Catholic community-- deserves great credit.
Gail Quinn is Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops