The Partial-Birth Abortion Debate Revealed Much

Yesterday the Senate finally passed the final version of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act — the final step needed to get it to President Bush for his signature that will finally make it law.

After vetoes by President Clinton, despite overwhelming support for it in both houses of Congress and in public opinion, babies a mere 3 inches from being completely removed from the birth canal and classified as “alive” finally will be protected by law.

Here are several portions of yesterday’s debate in the Senate that deserve to be pointed out:

American Society

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R.-Pa.): [W]hen people ask the question, “Senator, why do you keep bringing this procedure back up to the Senate floor; it only stops one procedure; you are not banning other procedures that are used,” my answer is, “Because this is horrendous.”

In America, whether we like it or not, we are the beacon of freedom, but in many cases we are also the model of what is right and just. The world looks to us as Americans, as free people, as people who, probably uniquely in the world, get a chance to determine what our law should be, what our collective morality should be, what our culture looks like because of the enormous freedom we have.

The heart and soul of America is reflected through our laws, unlike other countries that do not allow that democratic process to work so effectively. So when America passes laws, or when America allows certain behavior to occur, the world looks at that law or that behavior as supported by the collective consciousness and morality of the American public.

When they see this, what do they think of us? What do they think of us? What kind of culture do you think the rest of the world thinks America is all about? What kind of morality or ethics do you think the world thinks America is all about when they look at us and see that we allow this to be done to innocent little children?


SEN. SESSIONS (R.-Ala.): It is time now that we take a step that will make America a better place. We must just say no to this procedure. There are some activities that we can’t allow. There are some activities that can’t be justified and are so beneath the decency of a nation as great as America that we ought to ban.


SEN. DEWINE (R.-Ohio): We are here today because a civilized society cannot tolerate this type of procedure. With all due respect to my colleague, my friend from Illinois, this is not about politics. This is about what kind of a society we have, what kind of a country, what kind of a people we are.

Liberal “Civilized” Society

SEN. BOXER (D.-Calif.): I don’t know where the compassion is on the other side. My friend talked about a civilized society. I want a civilized society. That means you care about the women of this country. That means you care about their pregnancies. That means you want to help them through the most difficult times. That means you don’t play doctor here because you are not a doctor. We are about to play doctor in a big way.

Why Should Abortion Be Rare?

SEN. ENSIGN (R.-Nev.): This procedure is completely, in my mind, indefensible; it is infanticide. I want to talk about abortion in general because the other side is saying this is just chipping away at the rights of abortion. I remember when President Clinton said that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I think those were his terms. I was thinking to myself, safe, I can understand that; legal, from his perspective, I can understand that; but if you don’t believe it is wrong, who cares whether it is rare?

If there is nothing wrong with abortion, why should it be rare? Who cares? If it is not a baby, if it is just a blob of tissue, like the other side says, who cares whether it happens all the time? Why do we care whether it is rare?

The reason even somebody like Bill Clinton says it should be rare is because there is something in our conscience that is telling us abortion is wrong. [???]

If it is a baby, it is wrong. It just is. If it is a baby, it is murder. If it is not a baby, if it is some tissue, like the other side says, that is exactly right, it should be legal. It should be absolutely legal, if it is just tissue. But if it is a human life, then that human life deserves to be defended. That innocent human life deserves all the protections of the law, whether they have Down syndrome, spina bifida, or any other congenital ailment. They deserve the same protection under our law any other “normal” healthy child has.

It’s Not “Killing”?

SEN. BOXER: Why would anyone in this Chamber be so callous as to pass a law knowingly keeping out a health exception for women? Well, if you listen to my friend’s words and you hear the words he uses, you will understand why this is happening from the other side. My colleague uses the term “killing the child.” As the author of the Violence Against Women Act and the Violence Against Children Act, I take deep offense at that language–deep offense. Women do not want to kill their child. Women who have had this procedure have come to the Congress, have begged Members of Congress: Do not pass this without a health exception for the mother. If I didn’t have this procedure, I would have been made infertile.

I am going to go into those stories later in the debate. But here is the situation. If you listen to the language “killing the child,” you must come to the conclusion my colleague believes abortion is murder and women are murderers and doctors are accomplices. I thought we moved away from that when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land.

Why are we here today? I will be honest with you: because I didn’t want this bill to go through and neither do people who believe women are important.

Setting the Record Straight: Terminology

SEN. SANTORUM: I have listened to this debate on both sides, and I continue to hear a lot of the same things. I just think it is important to set the record straight with respect to what many have heard today.

First, the Senator from California, Mrs. Boxer, has objected to my using the term “killing” the child when describing the diagrams of the partial-birth abortion. So I wanted to make sure I was not using terms that were inflammatory or inaccurate. She said I was referring to the fetus as a child instead of the fetus. I looked up the definition of fetus: “An unborn child.” So I don’t think referring to a fetus as a child is incorrect when the definition of a fetus is “an unborn child, from the third month until birth.” This child is obviously in excess of 3 months into gestation, so it is obvious I am using a correct term.

She objected to me using the term “killing.” I will quote some people in the abortion movement to justify my using of this term. This is from Faye Wattleton, former president of Planned Parenthood:

“I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say, yes, it kills a fetus, but it is a woman’s body and ultimately her choice.”

So say even those in the abortion movement.

Judy Arcana, a pro-choice author and educator, said:

“Sometimes a woman has to decide to kill her baby. That is what abortion is.”

I understand how people want to avoid talking about the baby, the child, the fetus, or whatever term you feel most comfortable using. It is what it is. It is a human being. I understand we like to use terms that don’t refer to the human being. In fact, in all the debate we have heard today on the other side, we hear this concentration and talk about the woman and the right to choose. We hear very little discussion about what the choice is all about. I know most Americans like choices and they like the right to choose. But I think it is important that people know what the choice is all about, what we are choosing.

What we are choosing here is to kill a human being.

Not-So-Conventional Wisdom

SEN. SESSIONS: I just suggest that things are not as a lot of people think with regard to the question of abortion–particularly partial-birth abortion, which we are talking about today. That is all this bill has to do with.

I will just note that Faye Wattleton, a former president of Planned Parenthood, a very pro-choice group, and now head of a new organization, the Center for the Advancement of Women, recently commissioned a survey by the Princeton Survey Research Associates. It involved 3,329 women. This was a scientific survey. That is a very large number. A lot of polls on Presidential elections don’t have that many people polled.

That survey found that 51 percent of the women, who are supposed to be offended by this small, but horrible procedure, wanted to ban abortion altogether, or limit it to cases of rape or incest or where the mother’s life is in danger.

Another 17 percent said abortion–this is abortion in general–should be available under stricter laws than now apply. That means that 68 percent of women polled think we ought to tighten up the laws. This idea, that dealing with partial-birth abortion is offensive to women, does not strike me as being sound based on that poll. But, of course, polls are not what we are about here. We are here to do what is right.

Saving Babies Is Not Compassionate

SEN. BOXER: Let me reiterate who is being compassionate. Our side of the aisle, down to every person, and the pro-choice side of the aisle. On the other side we have a few. We agree to this ban if there is an exception for the health and life of a woman. The other side said no. And the clear fact is, when the other side says there will not be an exception for the health of the woman, the other side is not being compassionate. [???]

To say you are being compassionate and you are being caring to the most vulnerable when you turn your back away from the fact that a woman could have a hemorrhage, she could have her uterus ruptured, she could be made infertile, she could have blood clots, embolism, a stroke, damage to nearby organs, or paralysis if this particular procedure is not available to her–if you have no compassion, if you smile when you look at this, if you do not feel what it is like for a woman to face this, if you put this in the back of your mind, I am sorry, in my view you are not for the most vulnerable at all.

Curbing Which Rights?

SEN. LAUTENBERG (D.-N.J.): There they go again, wanting to curb people’s rights, rights that are abundant and ought to remain in place without us touching them, civil rights such as affirmative action, rights such as the ability to have your day in court to make your case, and not have it snatched away to protect the gun industry from lawsuits no matter how reckless their behavior.

Boys Will Be Boys

SEN. LAUTENBERG: But here, in what I call the “male-garchy” that is the United States Senate, we have the men deciding what ought to happen with women who, with their doctor, want to make a decision to protect their health.

The Senator from California was eloquent. She said: Provide those exceptions for the health and well-being of a mother. But no, that is not good enough: We don’t like the way these women are making these decisions. We don’t like it. We don’t think they are mature enough to make these decisions. They are mature enough to be a mother, but are they mature enough to make their own decisions about their body? No, not according to the “Big Boys’ Club” here; they should not be allowed to do that.


SEN. HARKIN (D.-Iowa): Senator Boxer has my highest esteem for all the work she has done to make sure that the women of this country are not controlled by ideology, by one religious belief, or by the actions of a male-dominated Senate and House of Representatives and, I might add, now a male-dominated Supreme Court.

Pregnancy = Cancerous Lesion

SEN. SANTORUM: Mr. President, it is very clear to me that the Senator from New Jersey and I have a fundamental difference on how we view this issue. For the Senator from New Jersey to liken this procedure to the removal of an intestine, to compare the killing of a fetus-

SEN. LAUTENBERG: Will the Senator yield?

SEN. SANTORUM: To compare the killing of a fetus to the removal of an intestine–a fetus like in this picture, where you can see that little hand, that is a 21-week-old. That is the age at which these children are killed by partial-birth abortion. To compare the killing and extinguishing of life to the removal of an intestine is-

SEN. LAUTENBERG: Will the Senator yield for a very brief question? My father was 42 when he was stricken with colon cancer and he had his intestine removed to try to save his life. It was an ugly, painful procedure. As I equate this with any painful procedure that is surgically necessary. They tried to save his life but were unsuccessful.

SEN. SANTORUM: The Senator from New Jersey is equating the removal of tissue that was damaging to the person involved–removing an intestine to preserve that health or life. This little child, in almost every situation–in fact, the industry agrees: healthy mothers, healthy children–that little child is not a threat to this mother. It is not a cancerous lesion. It is not a defective or deformed part of that person’s body that is threatening their health. This is a living organism. It happens to be a human being inside of the mother, and it is being killed not for the health of the mother or for the life of the mother but because the mother no longer wants the child.

The father of the Senator from New Jersey whose operation was performed was removing something that was damaging his health and potentially threatening his life. That is not the case here. To compare the two shows you the fundamental difference in our view.

What are we saying to people when we liken little children to cancerous parts of someone’s body? We just see these little children as, what, threats? As something to be excised because they are not wanted? Is that the way we look at children? Is that how we see them–as cancerous lesions? Then we wonder why we have so much child abuse in this country, why one-third of the pregnancies end in abortion, why our culture is degraded, because we compare them to cancerous intestines on the floor of the Senate.

Abortion on Par With 1st Amendment

SEN. HARKIN: [T]he freedom to choose on the part of women is no more negotiable than the freedom to speak or the freedom to worship in our Constitution.