This week, the House of Representatives will vote to override President Clinton's veto of the partial birth abortion ban. I expect the House to succeed. As I write this, the Senate is one vote shy of its own veto override.

I consider this vote one of the most important votes I can cast as a member of Congress. It is literally a vote to save the lives of children. Ron Fitzsimmons, director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, shocked the public last year when he flatly stated that 3,000 to 5,000 partial-birth abortions are performed annually, most in the fifth and sixth month of pregnancy on healthy mothers and infants.Since many babies can survive outside their mother's bodies at that stage of gestation, the aborting physician uses scissors to kill the baby after its body has been delivered, but its head is still in the birth canal. Eyewitnesses have testified that the infant suffers acutely during this procedure. It clasps its tiny fists. Its feet kick and thrust.

President Clinton's veto of this ban last fall showed a cold disregard for the lives of these infants. Congress carefully drafted the ban to allow the procedure when it's necessary to save the life of the mother. Beyond that, I see no other good reason for waiting until the fifth and sixth months of a pregnancy to abort an unborn child.

The president justified his veto by talking in vague terms about saving the health of mothers who would be "ripped" and "eviscerated" by normal deliveries. Those remarks make no sense when you realize that this method of abortion is virtually a complete delivery, proceeded by two days of forced dilation of the birth canal.

In short, President Clinton ducked the fact, acknowledged by even pro-abortionists, that the "vast majority" of these abortions are performed on healthy mothers and infants.

The American public has made it clear in poll after poll that it wants this procedure stopped. This strong sentiment is reflected in the House vote on the ban last year: 295-136; not only a veto-proof majority, but clear bipartisan support for the ban.

It is underscored by the American Medical Association's announcement last year that it supports the ban. Why would the association support a ban that penalizes doctors who perform the procedure? Because even abortion physicians, themselves, find this procedure barbaric, gruesome and usually unnecessary. They dread performing them. The AMA put it succinctly: "We all agree it is not good medicine."

It is disappointing that President Clinton persists in ignoring compelling moral arguments, sound medicine and the wishes of the American people in favor of the political urgings of pro-choice groups like the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). Planned Parenthood has called this a "safe and necessary abortion method."

There was an infant lying in a Phoenix hospital this month with a skull fracture and facial cuts that belies such an impersonal description of this procedure. She weighed 6 pounds, 2 ounces and was at 37 weeks gestation when a partial-birth abortion was attempted, according to a July 9 Associated Press story. The physician fractured her skull with scissors before he realized she was essentially a full-term baby and stopped the abortion.

Because he stopped, this little girl is healing and awaits adoption. She faces a happy, full life as the child of loving parents. Her story underscores a fact Congress and the American public recognize: This isn't about procedures. This is about babies' lives.

I wish the president would recognize that fact. The House this week will again tell him in no uncertain terms: Partial-birth abortions are barbaric procedures that must be stopped.