CLINTON VETOES LATE-TERM ABORTION BILL.
President Clinton on Friday vetoed legislation that would ban a form of late-term abortion, squaring off for a political fight that Republicans hope will help sustain their congressional majorities in the 1998 elections.
In a sign of the sensitivity of his veto, Clinton did not announce it in person, but waited until late Friday afternoon before issuing a written statement explaining his decision.
Clinton said he did not support this kind of late-term abortion on an elective basis but that women could face situations that required it. The ban contains an exemption to save the life of the mother, but Clinton repeated his previous pleas for an exception for women whose health is seriously threatened.
``I understand the desire to eliminate the use of a procedure that appears inhumane,'' he said. ``But to eliminate it without taking into consideration the rare and tragic circumstances in which its use may be necessary would be even more inhumane.'' He also said the measure was unconstitutional.
Supporters of the ban were quick to attack the president's veto, using the strikingly harsh language that characterizes this debate.
``How could jamming scissors into the back of a baby's head be required for the `health' of the mother?'' Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., asked in a prepared statement. ``It makes no sense.''
He said Clinton ``knows that thousands of partial-birth abortions are performed primarily in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy on the healthy babies of healthy mothers.''
Clinton vetoed similar legislation in April 1996, during his re-election campaign. He went to greater lengths to defend his stance then, appearing immediately afterward at a White House ceremony with five women who had undergone the procedure. They spoke tearfully about the disorders that had threatened their lives and those of their fetuses, and that had prompted agonizing decisions.
Clinton had previously indicated that he would veto the legislation again after the House passed it Wednesday.
Confident that voters are repulsed by the abortion procedure, lawmakers who want to ban it are eager for a vote to override Clinton's veto. But they intend to wait to hold it until next year, closer to the midterm elections.