President Bush appeared before an ecstatic crowd of pro-life activists and made history. He approved the first curb on abortion since that procedure was legalized in 1973. It was supported by republicans and democrats. Similar bills were passed by congress previously, but they were vetoed by then-President Bill Clinton.
"The right to life cannot be granted or denied by government," said President Bush. "Because it does not come from government. It comes from the Creator of life."
The Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003 outlaws late term abortions.
"I think the climate is changing in this country. We are becoming a more pro-life country," said Darla St. Martin of the National Right to Life Committee.
Polls show Americans are divided on the issue. Sixty percent support the ban, but 60 percent also say the procedure should be legal when it protects the life of the mother. This bill makes no exception to protect the woman's health. Pro-choice advocates claim it's the first step toward limiting all abortions.
"This is a very, very dangerous precedent, said Rep. Louise Slaughter, Democrat of New York. "If we can outlaw this procedure simply by an act of Congress, ask yourself what's next."
The bill's opponents have taken their case to the courts. A federal judge in Nebraska has issued an injunction freezing the ban there and the bill's critics vow to take this all the way to the Supreme Court.
Three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed a similar ban on late term abortions and pro-choice activists are hoping the courts will be on their side again. President Bush vowed to defend the law and vigorously fight every legal challenge.
Mississippi already bans abortions after 17 weeks. In Alabama, abortions are outlawed past the 24-week mark.