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Letter to Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Federal Funding for Abortion

October 17, 1989


As the Senate begins consideration of H.R. 2990, the Conference Report accompanying the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Appropriations Bill for FY 1990, I want you to know that I will not sign the measure should it include language that expands Federal funding for abortion beyond that which has been current law since 1981.

My position on the issue of abortion is clear. I support a constitutional amendment that would reverse the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. I also support a human life amendment with an exception for rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is threatened. I do not support Federal funding of abortions except where the mother's life is threatened.

As H.R. 2990 progressed through the legislative process, my senior advisors indicated that they would recommend I veto the measure if it included expanded Federal funding for abortion beyond the life of the mother exception. Although I wrote a letter to Members of Congress clearly expressing my concerns during consideration of the District of Columbia Appropriations bill for FY 1990, I nonetheless asked my senior advisors to take another look at this complex issue, particularly the role of public funds, consistent, though, with my position as stated above.

This decision is one that I have not reached easily or lightly. Many citizens and Members of Congress were consulted as this question was reviewed. Abortion is a difficult, often painful, and very personal decision for all Americans. It is made even more difficult when the underlying issue is whether the government -- and ultimately the American taxpayer -- is asked to pay for abortions and under what circumstances. Since 1981, the Federal Government has determined, I think wisely, that taxpayer funds should be used for abortion in only the most narrow of circumstances: where the life of the mother is endangered. If abortion funding were expanded to include other circumstances, it would be difficult to limit to the few cases of actual rape or incest, and could have the unintended consequence of allowing the taking of countless other lives of unborn children well beyond the few cases argued as reasons for the proposed legislative change.

My intense personal concern for those women who are victims of the crimes of rape and incest is as strongly felt as my position on abortion. Rape and incest are crimes of violence which must not go unpunished, and those convicted of such crimes must be brought to justice.

The question raised by H.R. 2990, however, involves whether the Federal Government and American taxpayers should be forced to pay for the termination of an unborn child's life in the case of rape or incest. That such a child may have been conceived through an unconscionable act of violence makes this question difficult and, indeed, agonizing; it does not, however, alter the basic fact that Federal funding is being sought that would compound a violent act with the taking of an unborn life. And in the absence of perfect legislation that would reconcile these difficult issues, if I have to err, I prefer to err on the side of human life.

For these reasons, should H.R. 2990 reach my desk with language expanding Federal funding of abortion, I will veto the measure and return it to the Congress.


George Bush

Note: Identical letters were sent to Senators Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

George Bush, Letter to Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Federal Funding for Abortion Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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