VATICAN CITY- A new Vatican document, prompted in part by the partial- birth abortion debate, describes abortion as a primordial evil that has reached “new depths of depravity” in the United States.

Released by the Pontifical Council for the Family July 2, the document also condemned efforts to legalize euthanasia in the U.S. as evidence of a growing contempt for human life.

As reported by the Reuters News Agency, the Vatican document seized on President Bill Clinton’s April veto of a ban on partial birth abortions to launch a stinging attack on anti-life practices.

“In the United States, legalized abortion reaches new depths of depravity and cruelty with such inhuman practices as ‘partial-birth abortion,’” the document said.

Partial-birth abortion involves the partial extraction of an unborn child from the womb. A catheter is then inserted into the child’s skull to remove brain tissue before the child is completely removed.

This is the second time in recent months that the Vatican has leveled sharp criticism against the U.S. president. A number of prominent U.S. clerics, including Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, also spoke out against the president’s action.

The document was issued from Mexico City where the Vatican officials met delegates from North, Central and South America to discuss the problem of the family. It was endorsed by several Church figures and by Roman Catholic politicians from countries in the Americas.

‘Legal protection’

“We call for legal protection for the unborn child from the moment of conception,” the document said. “We recommend unequivocal pro-life legislation on embryo experimentation and genetic engineering.”

The document criticized a “legal positivism” that it said was breaking down the original right to life, leaving legislators, judges and state leaders supreme in matters of life and death.

It also noted the anti-family element to a number of recent social policy initiatives and called for an end to the “contraceptive imperialism” of population control as advocated by powerful Western nations.

This latter point was in reference to the conflict between the Vatican and the U.S. over the use of abortion as a means of population control. It was one of the main items of disagreement at the 1994 United Nations population conference on Cairo.

Finally, the Vatican document criticized some Latin American countries for failing to apply laws defending the right to life.