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Letter to Representative John Conyers, Jr., on Abortion Legislation

February 28, 1996

Dear John:

I understand that the House is preparing to consider H.R. 1833, as amended by the Senate, which would prohibit doctors from performing a certain type of abortion. I want to make the Congress aware of my position on this extremely complex issue.

I have always believed that the decision to have an abortion should be between a woman, her conscience, her doctor, and her God. I strongly believe that legal abortions—those abortions that the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade must be protected—should be safe and rare. I have long opposed late-term abortions except, as the law requires, where they are necessary to protect the life of the mother or where there is a threat to her health. In fact, as Governor of Arkansas, I signed into law a bill that barred third trimester abortions except where they were necessary to protect the life or health of the woman, consistent with the Supreme Court's rulings.

The procedure described in H.R. 1833 is very disturbing, and I cannot support its use on an elective basis, where the abortion is being performed for non-health related reasons and there are equally safe medical procedures available. As I understand it, however, there are rare and tragic situations that can occur in a woman's pregnancy in which, in a doctor's medical judgment, the use of this procedure may be necessary to save a woman's life or to preserve her health. In those situations, the Constitution requires that a woman's ability to choose this procedure be protected.

I have studied and prayed about this issue, and about the families who must face this awful choice, for many months. I believe that we have a duty to try to find common ground: a resolution to this issue that respects the views of those—including myself—who object to this particular procedure, but also upholds the Supreme Court's requirement that laws regulating abortion protect both the life and the health of American women.

I have concluded that H.R. 1833 as drafted does not meet the constitutional requirements that the Supreme Court has imposed upon us, in Roe and the decisions that have followed it, to provide protections for both the life and the health of the mother in any laws regulating abortions.

I am prepared to support H.R. 1833, however, if it is amended to make clear that the prohibition of this procedure does not apply to situations in which the selection of the procedure, in the medical judgment of the attending physician, is necessary to preserve the life of the woman or avert serious adverse health consequences to the woman.

I urge the Congress to amend H.R. 1833 to ensure that it protects the life and the health of the woman, as the law we have been elected to uphold requires.



NOTE: This letter was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on February 28 but was not issued as a White House press release.

William J. Clinton, Letter to Representative John Conyers, Jr., on Abortion Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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