WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua urged the U.S. Senate to support the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and to oppose substitute amendments that might weaken it.

The proposed legislation forbids a particularly cruel procedure which ends the lives of children when they are inches away from birth, noted the cardinal, who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities.

The Senate is expected to take up the legislation this week.

In a letter to senators, Cardinal Bevilacqua recalled that the legislation passed Congress twice but was vetoed each time by President Bill Clinton. "President Bush has said he will sign a bill to ban partial-birth abortion so the time to enact this ban is now," he said.

More than half the states have enacted laws to ban partial-birth abortion, and polls consistently show that the overwhelming majority of Americans (70% and more) support such a ban.

But in 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court, in Stenberg v. Carhart, struck down Nebraska's ban on the procedure. This effectively called into question the constitutionality of other state bans and the twice-passed federal ban.

Cardinal Bevilacqua, the archbishop of Philadelphia, said the Senate bill contains a precise and narrowly worded definition of partial-birth abortion which responds to the court's concern about vagueness.

It also addresses the court's concern about protecting women's health by presenting Congress' findings based on years of testimony that partial-birth abortion is not necessary to preserve women's health, and may in fact pose serious health risks.

The full text of Cardinal Bevilacqua's letter is at http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/pba/pba0303.htm.