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Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval Partial Birth Abortion Legislation

October 10, 1997

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 1122, which would prohibit doctors from performing a certain kind of abortion. I am returning H.R. 1122 for exactly the same reasons I returned an earlier substantially identical version of this bill, H.R. 1833, last year. My veto message of April 10, 1996, fully explains my reasons for returning that bill and applies to H.R. 1122 as well. H.R. 1122 is a bill that is consistent neither with the Constitution nor sound public policy.

As I have stated on many occasions, I support the decision in Roe v. Wade protecting a woman's right to choose. Consistent with that decision, I have long opposed late-term abortions, and I continue to do so except in those instances necessary to save the life of a woman or prevent serious harm to her health. Unfortunately, H.R. 1122 does not contain an exception to the measure's ban that will adequately protect the lives and health of the small group of women in tragic circumstances who need an abortion performed at a late stage of pregnancy to avert death or serious injury.

I have asked the Congress repeatedly, for almost 2 years, to send me legislation that includes a limited exception for the small number of compelling cases where use of this procedure is necessary to avoid serious health consequences. When Governor of Arkansas, I signed a bill into law that barred third-trimester abortions, with an appropriate exception for life or health. I would do so again, but only if the bill contains an exception for the rare cases where a woman faces death or serious injury.

I believe the Congress should work in a bipartisan manner to fashion such legislation.


The White House, October 10, 1997.

NOTE: The Office of the Press Secretary also made available the President's earlier veto message, dated April 10, 1996, which was published in Public Papers of the Presidents: William J. Clinton, 1996 Book I (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1997), p. 567.

William J. Clinton, Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval Partial Birth Abortion Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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