WASHINGTON – U.S. President Bill Clinton October 10 vetoed legislation to ban partial-birth abortions, setting the stage for an attempted override by the Republican-controlled Congress.

It was the second time Clinton has vetoed legislation to ban the late-term abortion procedure.

He said in his veto message he was vetoing the bill because Congress failed to make an exception to protect women’s health.

“I have asked the Congress repeatedly, for almost two 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,” Clinton said.

“I believe the Congress should work in a bipartisan manner to fashion such legislation.” He said he would sign such a bill.

Comments dismissed

Clinton’s comments are dismissed by North American right to life officials who note his support of the most extreme pro-abortion elements.

The House passed the ban October 8 by a vote of 296-132, six more than needed to override a veto.

“We have the votes to override his veto in the House, and we will work tirelessly to get the last few votes needed in the Senate,” said Rep. Charles Canady, a Florida Republican who is author of the House bill.

The House bill incorporates amendments approved last May by the Senate, which did not then have enough votes to force the bill into law despite Clinton’s disapproval.

But Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said before the House vote that chances for a Senate override were “pretty good … within a vote or two” at this point.”

Some pro-abortionists have accused Republicans of trying to draw out the debate on this issue so that any final approval or veto would coincide with next year’s congressional elections.

Lott dismissed this, saying he would hope for an override attempt this year.

Clinton vetoed an earlier ban on the abortions in April 1996.

In a partial-birth abortion, which is also known as intact dilation and extraction, the unborn child is partially removed from the uterus feet-first, the fetal brain is suctioned out and then the rest of the body is removed.

Frequent use of procedure

Used in the later months of pregnancy, the procedure is said by pro-abortionists to account for a small proportion of all abortions performed in the United States.

Recently however, a prominent abortion-rights spokesman admitted on a nationally televised news program that he lied when stating partial-birth abortion is rarely used.

The National Right to Life Committe criticized the veto as subjecting “thousands of living babies” to a procedure opponents have criticized as gruesome and violent.

The brutal nature of partial-birth abortion drew some of the sharpest crticism ever levelled at a U.S. president from Vatican and other church sources.

The bill provides for a maximum two-year prison term for those who perform the procedure, but the amendments offer defendants a hearing before a state medical board on whether the procedure was needed to save the woman’s life, and information from that hearing can be used at trial.

Similar bans on the procedure have been enacted in 17 states and 11 of these bans have been challenged in state courts.