The following is Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R.-Okla.) opening statement at the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
Judge Alito, welcome.
I know you’re tired of this and I’ll try to be as brief as possible.
One of the advantages of going last is to be able to hear what everybody else has said.
And as I’ve listened today, we’ve talked about the unfortunate, the frail. The quotes have been "fair shake for those that are underprivileged." We’ve heard "values, strong, free and fair, progressive judiciary." We’ve heard "the vulnerable, the more vulnerable, the weak, those who suffer." We’ve heard of an Alito mold that has to be in the mold of somebody else.
And as a practicing physician, the one disheartening thing that I hear is this very common word, this "right to choose" and how we sterilize that to not talk about what it really is.
I’ve had the unfortunate privilege of carrying over 300 women who’ve had complications from this wonderful right to choose to kill their unborn babies. And that’s what it is: It’s the right of convenience to take the life.
And the question that arises as we use all these adjectives and adverbs to describe our physicians as we approach a Supreme Court nominee is where are we in America when we decide that it’s legal to kill our unborn children?
I mean, it’s a real question for us. I debate honestly with those who disagree with me on this. It is a real issue, a measurement of our society, when we say it’s fine to destroy unborn life who has a heartbeat at 16 days post-conception. Thirty-nine days post- conception you can measure the brain waves and there’s pain felt.
The ripping and tearing of an unborn child from his mother’s womb through the hands of another, and we say, "That’s fine; you have a constitutional right to do that."
How is it that we have a right of privacy and due process to do that but you don’t have the right, as rejected unanimously by the Supreme Court in 1997, to take your own life in assisted suicide?
You know, how is it that we have sodomy protected under that due process but prostitution unprotected? It’s schizophrenic. And the reason it’s schizophrenic is there’s no foundation for it whatsoever other than a falsely created foundation that is in error.
I don’t know if we’ll ever change that. It’s a measure of our society.
But the fact is that you can’t claim, in this Senate hearing, to care for those that are underprivileged, to those that are at risk, to those that are vulnerable, to those that are weak, to those that suffer and, at the same time, say I don’t care about those who have been ripped from the wombs of women and the complications that have come about throughout that.
So, the debate, for the American public — and the real debate here is about Roe.
We’re going to go off in all sorts of directions, but the decisions that are going to be made on votes on the committee and the votes on the floor is going to be about Roe, whether or not we as a society have decided that this is an ethical process, that we have this convenient process that if we want to rationalize one moral choice with another, we just do it through abortion, this taking of the life, of life of an unborn child.
I asked Chief Justice Roberts about this definition of life — you know, what is life? The Supreme Court can’t figure it out or doesn’t want us to figure it out; the fact that we know that there is no life if there’s no heartbeat and brainwaves. We know that in every state and every territory. But when we have heartbeat and brain waves, we refuse to accept it as the presence of life — this lack of logic of which we approach this issue because we like and we favor convenience over ethics. We favor convenience over the hard parts of life that actually make us grow.
Senator Brownback talked about those with disabilities that are destroyed in the womb because of a genetic test that is sometimes wrong. I would put forward that we all have disabilities.
Some of us, you just can’t see it. And yet, who makes the decisions as to whether we’re qualified or not?
We’ve gone down a road to which we don’t have the answers for. That’s why we have the schizophrenic decisions coming out of the Supreme Court that don’t balance logically with one versus another decision.
So my hope, is as we go through this process, let’s not confuse it with the easy words and really be honest and straightforward about what this is about.
I firmly believe that the court should take another direction on many of these moral issues that face us. If we’re to honor the heritage of our country, whether it be in terms of religious freedom, whether it be in terms of truly protecting life, protecting not just the unborn but who comes next, the infirm, the elderly, the maimed, the disabled — that’s who comes next as we get into the budget crunch of taking care of those people in the years — I believe we ought to have that debate honest and openly.
But the fact is, is we’re going to cover it with everything except the real fact is we’ve made a mistake going down that road in terms of saying we can destroy our unborn children and there’s no consequences to it.
So I welcome you.
This is a difficult process for you and your family. I am hopeful that you will be treated fairly.
I’m very disturbed at the picture that was painted by Senator Kennedy that you’re not a man of your word, that you’re dishonest. The implication that you’re not reliable I don’t think is a fair characterization of what I’ve read.
And I look forward to you being able to giving answers, as you can, to your philosophy.
The real debate is we’ve had an activist court, and the American people don’t want an activist court. And the real fear from those who might oppose you is that you’ll bring the court back within a realm where the American people might want us to be with a Supreme Court; one that interprets the law, equal justice under the law, but not advancing without us advancing, the legislative body advancing, ahead of you.
I welcome you.