[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1996, Book I)]
[February 28, 1996]
[Pages 342-343]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

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 

    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.

[[Page 343]]


                                                            Bill Clinton

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