Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, I thank Senator DURBIN for introducing this very important measure for the women of this Nation. Today, we continue debate on the critical issue of allowing women to choose what is right for them, their health and their families.
In 197326 years ago nowthe Supreme Court affirmed for the first time a woman's right to choose. This landmark decision was carefully crafted to be both balanced and responsible while holding the rights of women in America paramount in reproductive decisions. It is clear that the underlying Santorum bill does not hold the rights of women paramountinstead it infringes on those rights in the most grievous of circumstances.
Indeed, S. 3 undermines basic tenets of Roe v. Wade, which maintained that women have a constitutional right to an abortion, but after viabilitythe time at which it first becomes realistically possible for fetal life to be maintained outside the woman's bodyStates could ban abortions only if they also allowed exceptions for cases in which a woman's life or health is endangered. And the Supreme Court reaffirmed their support for exceptions for health of the mother just three years ago.
In Stenberg vs. Carhart, a case involving the constitutionality of Nebraska's partial birth abortion ban statute, the Supreme Court invalidated the Nebraska statute because it lacks an exception for the performance of the D & X, dilation and extraction, procedure when necessary to protect the health of the mother, and because it imposes an undue burden on a woman's ability to have an abortion. This case was representative of 21 cases throughtout the Nation. Regrettably, however, Senator SANTORUM's legislation disregards both Supreme Court decisions by not providing an exception for the health of the mother and providing only a narrowly defined life exception.
And let there be no mistakeI stand here today to reaffirm that no viable fetus should be abortedby any methodunless it is absolutely necessary to protect the life or health of the mother, period.
Senator DURBIN's amendment, which I have cosponsored in the past and again this year, specifies that post-viability abortions would only be lawful if the physician performing the abortion and an independent physician certified in writing that continuation of the pregnancy would threaten the mother's life or risk grievous injury to her physical health. It mirrors laws already on the books in forty-one states, including my home state of Maine, which ban post-viability abortions while at the same time including life and health exceptions mandated by the Supreme Court under Roe v. Wade.
Furthermore, this amendment will lower the number of abortions because it bans all post-viability abortions. S. 3, in contrast, will not prevent a single abortion. Sadly, it will force women to choose another, potentially more harmful procedure.
Is this what we really want? To put women's health and lives at risk? And shouldn't these most critical decisions be left to those with medical trainingnot politicians?
The findings in S. 3 would have you believe that this procedure is never necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother and that in fact it poses significant health risks to a woman. This is simply not true. Let me explain why there must be a health exception for "grievous physical injury" in two circumstances:
First, the language applies in those heart-wrenching cases where a wanted pregnancy seriously threatens the health of the mother. The language would allow a doctor in these tragic cases to perform an abortion because he or she believes it is critical to preserving the health of a woman facing: Peripartal cardiomyopathy, a form of cardiac failure which is often caused by the pregnancy, which can result in death or untreatable heart disease; pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure which is caused by a pregnancy, which can result in kidney failure, stroke or death; and uterine ruptures which could result in infertility.
Second, the language also applies when a woman has a life-threatening condition which requires life-saving treatment. It applies to those tragic cases, for example,when a woman needs chemotherapy when pregnant, so the families face the terrible choice of continuing the pregnancy or providing life-saving treatment. These conditions include: Breast cancer; lymphoma, which has a fifty percent mortality rate if untreated; and primary pulmonary hypertension, which has a 50 percent maternal mortality rate.
Now, I ask my colleagues, who could seriously object under these circumstances?
Mr. President, I believe this is a common sense approach to a serious problem for American women and a contentious issue for the United States Congress. I am grateful to my colleague, Senator DURBIN, for championing this approach and I urge my colleaguespro-life and pro-choiceto join together to support this amendment to ban all abortions after viability. Let's reduce the number of abortions in this country at the same time we protect the lives and health of women.