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Public Statements

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BROWNBACK. Madam President, I thank my colleague from Pennsylvania for yielding the time. This debate is about a very difficult and very important topic of our era and our day.

I believe a true mark of a civilized society is not the level of human dignity it confers upon the strong or wealthy, but a true mark is on how much it confers upon the vulnerable and the oppressed. Clearly an abortion procedure that dismembers and kills partially-born human beings has no place in a civilized society.

I think it is becoming increasingly clear that the impact of abortions on society is profound. I want to spend some time talking about the impact on society, particularly when you take such a risky procedure as this which is not necessary and allow it to continue within the context of this society today.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the RECORD some statistics of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on partial-birth abortions, when they were being conducted in the State, and the reasons they were being done.

Mr. BROWNBACK. I would just note, in citing this statistic, it has been cited previously, the statistical year we have available to us, 182 partial-birth abortions were done and reported within the State of Kansas. Of those, when they asked if the abortion was necessary to prevent substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function, was the impairment physical or mental, they were asking, are you asking for this abortion, this partial-birth abortion to be done for physical reasons or for mental reasons, all 182 partial-birth abortions done in Kansas this year were for mental reasons. Zero were for physical reasons. The doctors conducting these, the patients doing it, said this is all for a mental reason.

The notion that some have put forward that there is not another physical option, that you are jeopardizing the physical health of the mother, the life of the mother by banning a partial-birth abortion procedure is certainly not borne out by the statistics in my State. You would think there should be at least one, maybe five that were for physical reasons of the mother. In our instance, in Kansas, where we require by law that partial-birth abortion be reported, and the reasoning, zero were for physical reasons. These were all for mental reasons that were put forward. I would hope we could put to rest the debate point about we have to maintain this procedure for the life of the mother, the health of the mother. Our experience in the State is that is simply not the reason. I am delighted to be able to provide that to my colleagues for the RECORD.

Regardless of your view overall on abortion, to have this grisly practice of partial birth continuing is something we should not have taking place. It is something we don't need to take place, and it does lead to a more callous society. That is the point I want to discuss, its overall impact on society. I hope we can step back a moment and philosophize a bit about what it does.

Aside from partial-birth abortion, it has become increasingly clear that the impact abortion has had on society is in itself profound. I am quite convinced the widespread acceptance of this brutal practice has already significantly coarsened public attitudes toward human life in general, particularly toward the most vulnerable in society, whether they are unborn or old or infirm. This coarsening of public attitude over the past several years has made other assaults against the dignity of humans and human life more acceptable and more accessible.

It is one of those slopes that you start down. If you say as a society, partial-birth abortion, we really don't like it that much but we will go ahead and let it take place, when you say it from a large legislative body such as this one, the Senate, the House of Representatives, to say we really don't care for it but we will let it take place, and we know what this procedure is and we know most of it, if not all of it, is on a choice basis of a mental concept, it is not on physical consequence for the mother, we know most of this is about a mental choice on the mother's part, and yet we are going to let this continue, what message does that send overall to society? What does it say to the country? What does it say to the world?

Does it make other assaults on human dignity possible? Euthanasia; assisted suicide; let's do embryo research; now let's clone human beings. We continue to move upon that path of saying the human being is not sacred; it is not precious; it is another entity; and we can countenance that such coarseness takes place, and it continues to move us on down that road.

Mother Teresa was quoted as once saying that "if we can accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?"

That is a really good question she was asking. If we accept that a mother would do this, particularly a partial-birth abortion procedure, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?

We all have a duty, an obligation, as citizens of the United States to stand up against such a moral outrage as partial-birth abortion. Human life is sacred. It is a precious gift. Human life is not something to be disposed of by those with more power. One of the most extreme assaults against human dignity is made against some of the most innocent among us, whether from the first moments of life to the moments just before birth, a child continues in that point to be a precious and unique gift, a gift never to be given or to be created again. It is given once. That is it. It seems therefore that in some measure this debate is about whether or not that child prior to birth is a child at all. Is this young human a person? Is it a child or is it a mere piece of property?

Some who support partial-birth abortion will argue this young human is not a person and can therefore be disposed of as property, as need sees. To me, this would be a ghastly concept. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a lady whose statue is in this building, one of the women depicted in the portrait monument, foresaw this awful view of humanity, of human life. She wrote a letter to Julia Ward Howe in October of 1873 and said:

When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.

That is a quote from 1873. The Congress must speak out against this atrocity. We must speak out against this degradation of human life. These are life issues of enormous consequence, and they are issues by which history will rightly judge us.

I thank those who have brought the debate forward. I know everybody who has entered into it does so with deep convictions, deep desires to do what is right. I hope we would back up as a society and ask ourselves, what coarsening does this do to us; what message is this sending, and what are we really saying about that young human life? Is it a person or is it a piece of property? It is one or the other in our jurisprudence, it has to be. Everything in this building right now, everything in this country is either a person or a piece of property. I am a person; my clothes are property. The building is property. The people in here are personages. What is the young human? We have had this debate before. We really need to consider that that is a child. It is a gift.

I want to quote one more time Mother Teresa and her concern on this particular issue and this particular issue of abortion itself. I don't think anybody could question her bona fides for being willing to take care of the weakest and the poorest in society and in the culture overall and her willingness to work and her work being carried on of taking care of the most vulnerable in society. She said this one time about the whole issue of abortion. She spoke very passionately, clearly about this topic. She said:

Many are concerned with the children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger and so on. Many people are also concerned about the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is the greatest destroyer of peace today—abortion which brings people to such blindness.

We are confronted with an issue that is difficult and has been in front of us before. We have a chance for the first time in a number of years to limit a particular ghastly abortion procedure. It has been adequately described over and over. This is the time. This is the place. This is the moment for the Senate to pass this bill, to pass it without amendment, to get it on through to the House and to the President, who will sign it into law. We can do something that really will send a right signal to society, a right signal overall to the culture, away from the coarsening and towards a life that does support a culture of life and not one of death.

I yield the floor.

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