May 16, 1997

Clinton wants ``to be convinced'' on abortion bill

By Gene Gibbons WASHINGTON - President Clinton said Friday he was disappointed by the Senate's rejection of a White House-backed bill to curtail late-term abortions, but said he hoped to avoid having to veto a Republican version.

``What I need to do is be convinced that no woman will be grievously harmed by this legislation,'' Clinton said in an exchange with reporters after hailing a new budget agreement with congressional Republicans.

Clinton supported a bill drafted by Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle that would have outlawed all late-term abortions except to save the life of the mother or avert grievous health consequences.

The Senate defeated it and a similiar measure offered Thursday by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, paving the way for a vote next week on Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum's proposal to ban ``partial birth'' procedures at any point in pregnancy, except to save the life of the mother.

Clinton vetoed a nearly identical bill last year. The defeated bills would have banned all late-term abortions, including partial birth, after a fetus is viable, or able to survive outside the uterus, but would not have banned the partial birth procedure, also known as dilation and extraction, prior to viability.

That procedure can be done in the fifth and sixth months.

``The Congress very clearly understands that the president objects to any ban that does not take into account the health needs of the mother,'' McCurry said.

Asked if Clinton's threat to veto the Santorum bill stood, the spokesman replied: ``Yes, it does ... the Santorum bill is clearly objectionable.''

Clinton said the Daschle compromise would have curtailed abortion ``far, far more -- light years more'' than Santorum's plan.

While still hopeful the Senate would adopt language that he could accept, Clinton said he would use his veto to block legislation that was ``unwise and unconstitutional.''