October 14, 1999
I am writing to urge your support for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, S. 1692.
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. To allow this to continue unchecked violates every principle of human rights and decency this country has always stood for. So unique and brutal is this procedure that the majority of those Americans who are pro-life and 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 quickly to prohibit partial-birth abortions within their own borders. In at least eight states, bans on partial-birth abortions have taken legal effect. While local or federal courts have enjoined many other state laws, claiming that they are "vague," this legislation is both clear and specific. 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 [Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 117 n.1 (1973)]. Commenting on an identical bill in 1997, the American Medical Association said that it "clearly defin[e]s the prohibited procedure so that it is clear on the face of the legislation what act is to be banned" [Letter of May 19, 1997, from AMA Executive Vice President P. John Seward to the Hon. Charles T. Canady].
It has become crystal clear during this debate that partial-birth abortions are never medically necessary. As former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has said, "in no way can I twist my mind to see that the late-term abortion as described --you know, partial birth, and then destruction of the unborn child before the head is born --is a medical necessity for the mother. It certainly can't be a medical necessity for the baby" [D. Gianelli and C. Kent, "The view from Mount Koop," American Medical News, August 19, 1996, p. 10]. Even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which opposes the ban, has acknowledged that it is never 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. Please vote for S. 1692 and ban this indefensible procedure once and for all.
Cardinal William Keeler
Archbishop of Baltimore
Chairman, Committee for Pro-Life Activities
National Conference of Catholic Bishops