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Senator Santorum Introduces Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

S. 3. A bill to prohibit the procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion; read the first time.

Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. I am joined in introducing this bill by 38 of my colleagues, over a third of the Senate. This bill is written to prohibit one particularly gruesome, inhumane, and medically unaccepted late term abortion method, except when the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother. Partial birth abortion is a procedure that is performed over a 3-day period in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. In this particular abortion technique, the physician delivers all but the head of a living baby through the birth canal, stab the baby in the base of the skull with curved scissors, and the uses a suction catheter to remove the child's brain. This procedure kills the baby. After collapsing the skull, the doctor completes the procedure. According to Ron Fitzsimmons of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, this procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along in the vast majority of cases.

The American public finds this procedure repugnant. A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll indicated that 70 percent of Americans favored laws making it illegal to perform partial birth abortions, except when necessary to save the life of the mother. This procedure is also unrecognized by the mainstream medical community as a valid abortion procedure. The American Medical Association has said this procedure is "not good medicine," is "ethically wrong," and "not an accepted 'medical practice'."

As far back as the 104th Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives both acted to ban this procedure. Unfortunately, President Clinton vetoed that bill. The House voted to override that veto, but the Senate fell short. Likewise, during the 105th Congress, the House and Senate acted to pass a bill banning this procedure. Again, President Clinton vetoed that bill banning an abortion procedure that occurs as the child is inches from being completely outside the mother. The House subsequently overrode his veto. The Senate failed to override by just three votes. In the 106th Congress as well, the Senate and the House both acted to overwhelmingly pass legislation banning this procedure.

A little over two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Stenberg versus Carhart decision, struck down a similar, but not identical, law in the state of Nebraska that banned partial birth abortions. The Stenberg majority opinion voiced concern that the description of the abortion procedure as described in the Nebraska law was vague and might apply to other types of late-term abortions. A second concern was that the law did not provide an exception for those instances when the banned procedure was judged necessary to preserve the health of the mother.

Last year, during the 107th Congress, Representative STEVE CHABOT of Ohio introduced a bill responding to those concerns. This bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 274-151. Unfortunately, the Senate was kept from considering this bill.

Today, I introduced a similar bill banning the horrific procedure of partial birth abortion, except when necessary to save the life of a mother. To respond to the Supreme Court's concerns in Stenberg, this bill provides a very precise definition of the partial birth abortion procedure to make it very clear what procedure is meant.

Second, the Court based its decision in Stenberg on the federal district court's factual findings regarding the safety of the partial birth abortion procedure. These findings were highly disputed and inconsistent with the overwhelming weight of authority on the issue—including evidence presented at the Stenberg trial, other trials challenging partial birth abortion bans, and at the extensive Congressional hearings that have been held over the years. Despite the lack of evidence supporting the district court's findings, the Supreme Court was required to accept them because of the "clearly erroneous" standard that is applied to lower court factual findings. However, under well-settled Supreme Court jurisprudence, the Congress is not required to accept these "factual findings," but is entitled to reach its own factual findings—findings that the Supreme Court accords great deference—and may enact legislation based on these findings. The bill I introduce today includes a series of findings from congressional hearings held over the years and from expert testimony that demonstrates that a partial birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of the mother, poses significant health risks to the woman, and is outside the standard of medical care.

Over the years, during the consideration of this ban, proponents of partial birth abortion have supported their arguments for this procedure with myth and misinformation. When the time comes for the full Senate to consider this bill, I look forward to again countering those untruths with the truth, and I ask my colleagues to vote to ban partial birth abortion.

It is long past time for the U.S. Senate to again pass a bill banning partial birth abortion. I am pleased that the Senate leadership has seen this as a legislative priority for the 108th Congress. The House and Senate have overwhelming supported such a ban time and time again. President Bush has asked us to send him a bill to end the practice of partial birth abortion. The American people clearly believe this is a procedure that should be prohibited. I appreciate the support of so many of my colleagues who have joined me in introducing this bill. And I am hopeful—very hopeful—that the 108th Congress will not end before this bill becomes law, before children in the very process of being born are protected by the laws of this great nation of ours.

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