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Public Statements

Senator Santorum Discusses Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, we are now on a piece of legislation known as the partial-birth abortion bill. It is a bill we have debated in the Senate in two previous Congresses on four different occasions. We debated it the first time and passed it. It was vetoed by the President, President Clinton at the time, back in 1996. Then we attempted to override the President's veto and fell just a few votes short.

We came back the next session, went through the same process, sent the bill to the President, he vetoed it again, and we came closer but we still failed in overriding the President's veto.

Subsequently, there were a whole series—actually, concurrent with that debate—of States, over half the States in the Union, that passed bans on this horrific partial-birth abortion procedure. That is the procedure where the baby is delivered—this is a baby at over 20 weeks gestation; in other words, halfway through the pregnancy. The gestational period is 40 weeks. This procedure is only performed on babies in utero after 20 weeks. So these are late-term abortions.

The process is as follows: A woman shows up and decides she wants to have an abortion after 20 weeks. A doctor decides to use this methodology. The woman is given a drug to dilate her cervix. She is sent home. Two days later she returns, and the baby is then delivered in a breech position. Under the definition of this act as currently constituted, the baby has to be alive when it is brought in through the birth canal, the baby has to be in a breech position, has to be outside the mother at least past the navel, and be alive. Then the baby is killed in a fashion that I will describe in more detail later.

That procedure, as I said, was banned by over 25 States. It was brought, obviously, to the courts by many in those States. There were a couple of circuit courts that found this to be constitutional, one that did not. The Supreme Court took one of those cases, the Nebraska case that was appealed to the circuit, and made a decision which I think was in error. It was a horrible decision, but a decision I think we need to contemplate here. It is a decision that said that an abortion past 20 weeks of a child that would otherwise be born alive is now encompassed by Roe v. Wade.

You hear a lot of comments about Roe v. Wade, that Roe v. Wade only allows legal abortions within the first trimester and under limited circumstances in the second trimester. These are babies in the second and third trimester, where the courts have basically said, as many of us who have been studying this issue for a long time have said, that there is no limitation on the right to abortion. Abortion is a right that is absolute in America. There are no limitations, as a result of court decisions, on the right to an abortion.

So they held, in this case, that the language of the statute was too vague and that—the description of the procedure was too vague, and that there needed to be a health exception to this procedure; in other words, to preserve the health of the mother.
We have responded to that with a bill we introduced last year, in the last session of Congress. In the last session of Congress, we introduced a piece of legislation in the House that was passed. STEVE CHABOT, at the time chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee on the Judiciary Committee, passed a piece of legislation in the House that banned this procedure. It is identical to the bill that is on the floor today. We asked for its consideration last year.

I came to the floor on a couple of occasions and asked for unanimous consent to bring this bill forward. I agreed to debate it on Fridays and Mondays, so as not to interrupt the rest of the Senate's schedule, I agreed to stay on the weekend if that was necessary so we could deal with amendments. Unfortunately, even though the bill passed in July of last year, it was not scheduled here on the Senate floor for debate and for passage—for action.

That is why I believe this is unfinished business from last year and one of the reasons I advocated for its early consideration this year. I thank our leader, Senator Frist, for his willingness to bring this bill to the floor promptly, for us to be able to have this debate, to look at the issues involved with respect to this issue.

We believe the issues the Supreme Court brought up with respect to the infirmities in the Nebraska statute have been addressed by this legislation. First, we have gone into much greater detail in describing this procedure, and either later tonight or tomorrow I will read the text of the bill and I will provide graphic illustration as to how this procedure is conducted.

Second, we dealt with the issue of health. Roe v. Wade requires a health exception when the health of the mother is potentially in danger. We have included in this legislation a voluminous amount of material that shows clearly, without dispute, in my mind—without dispute, period, not just in my mind—without any medical dispute, that there are no reasons this procedure has to be available for the health of the mother because there are no instances in which this procedure is required for the health of the mother. There is no medical organization out there that believes that to be the case.

While some do not support the legislation or have a neutral position, nobody has come forward and said this is medically necessary to protect the health of the mother, much less, by the way, the life of the mother.

So, since there is no reason for a health exception because there are no instances where a health exception is needed, then Roe does not apply. So we have laid that out very clearly in this legislation. We believe as a result of that, Congress has the right—because we do a heck of a lot more exhaustive study, in our deliberations with hearings and other testimony, than the Supreme Court can. They have to rely on the record of the lower court and the arguments made to that lower court.

In the case of Nebraska, frankly, the arguments were not particularly well put and the evidence was not particularly robust for either side. It was a very weak record, and the court made a decision based on that record. They will have a different record before them in this case when it is brought up to the court, and I believe the record will be clear and dispositive that no health exception is necessary. We have dealt with the constitutional issues. Now we are back to the focus of this legislation. Do you want to allow a horrific procedure that is not medically necessary, never medically indicated, not taught in any medical school in this country, not recommended, and which, in fact, major health organizations of this country have said is bad medicine, contra-indicated, that is so brutal in the way it is administered to a baby that otherwise would be born alive?

Let me emphasize that it is a baby fetus—some will refer to it as the child in utero—that would otherwise be born alive. You don't want to allow this child to be brutally killed by thrusting a pair of scissors into the back of its skull and suctioning its brains out.

This goes on in America thousands of times a year. The number of partial-birth abortions has tripled, according to the abortion industry that doesn't keep very good records. They admit that. It has tripled, they say, to 2,200. Oddly enough, back in 1997 when we were debating this, the Bergen County Record took the bother of asking the local abortion clinic how many they did just in Bergen County. The partial-birth abortion national number at that time was 600. In Bergen County, they did 1,500. I guess they dismissed that.

The bottom line is that this goes on an enormous amount of times and they call it a rare procedure. If we had a procedure that killed 2,200 children in America every single year, we would not be saying it is a rare procedure in America. If we had a disease that affected 2,200 little babies every year, we wouldn't say this is a rare thing when we know, by the way, that the number is multiples of that. The people we have to rely on for that information are the people who want this to be legal and who don't tell us about the abortions they perform.

This is something that needs to be done. I am hopeful that we can deal with this issue in an expeditious fashion, get this over in the House of Representatives and have them pass it, and have the President sign it, because he will sign it.

I think there is broad bipartisan support for this legislation as there has been in the past. It is overwhelmingly supported by the American people. A very large majority support this legislation. Even those who do not consider themselves pro-life believe that at some point we have to draw the line on the brutal killing of a child literally inches from constitutional protection—inches from being born and being completely separated from the mother, being held in the birth canal and executed, having scissors thrust into the base of its skull and then to have a suction catheter inserted and the "cranial content" removed.

Just to describe it here sends chills down your back. Yet people will defend this procedure and say that a civilized nation such as America believes this is proper medicine. Medicine, healing? I, frankly, don't know who is healed in that situation. I do not know who is protected in that situation when every credible medical core organization says it is not medically necessary; in fact, it is "bad medicine," and it is harmful to the woman. I have just described how harmful it is to the little child.

I ask my colleagues to join me in passing this piece of legislation and ending this outrageous procedure.

Mr. President, I reserve the remainder of my time.

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