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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, over the past 8 weeks, there has been a Senator in here who has struggled with the birth of twin granddaughters born at 30 weeks, to a first-time mom, his son's wife, and went through a struggle that was near death multiple times.

But yet today, I am pleased to announce that those two baby girls are at home with their parents, thriving, thriving now, life held in the balance, brought out of that balance by modern medicine. Now they will be successful, contributing citizens, with potential that will be manifested in millions and millions of ways that we can all look forward to and accept as a natural response to our procreative abilities.

Why do I bring that up? There was not anybody in this room, and probably
anybody listening, who did not smile when we talked about the potential of two new young children, two new young girls who are going to make an impact, maybe just locally, maybe just in their family, maybe nationally. But the fact is we have joy when we see that kind of outcome.

The reason I tell that story is because it fits who we are as human beings. It fits with our idea of the pursuit of life, of liberty, and of happiness. That right is guaranteed to us under the Constitution.

Kathleen Sebelius is, undoubtedly, a public servant to be honored for her years of commitment in the roles she has held. But I believe she has a drastic and fatal character flaw and it is this: She still believes that if a woman came with those twins at 30 weeks, to a doctor in Kansas, and she wanted to abort them, even though they are viable, that would be fine.

Now we are about to put someone in charge of Health and Human Services of this Nation who has this vital flaw of not recognizing the value of these two young children's lives. What does it say about where we are going to go? What does it say about the judgment process under which we applaud her service but do not recognize this one critical flaw that says: Individuals can decide what individuals have life.

We do that collectively under the law. But we do not do it collectively and discriminately on the basis of making decisions that someone ought not to have life at the very beginning.

I believe that is a disqualifier. I believe as we embrace more and more people into leadership roles in our Government who walk away from this very basic characteristic of human existence, this very basic necessity that recognizes the value--we are not talking about a first-trimester abortion, we are talking about snuffing life from viable children.

I am also unsettled as to her beliefs under the conscience protection for health care providers. If, in fact, you think it is OK to take a 36-week child in the womb who is an inconvenience for someone and that we, as a society, can't handle that, our choice is to snuff it out, how far does it go before we require the provider community to snuff it out? There were no assurances given in her testimony that that will not happen. We have already seen the Obama administration work to look at reversing the guidelines from the last administration clarifying particularly what the providers' roles are. It says a lot about where we are as a society, about our misplaced values.

The other problem I have--it is one I have never voiced before from this Chamber--is the idea that we as politicians embrace somebody for a position because they are a politician, because they have spent years being a career politician, and that that qualifies them, the Governor of a very small State population-wise, to handle and lead on all these areas of health care. It does not recognize the complexities of the management organization at HHS, the difficulties they have in terms of carrying out their charges. It recognizes past performance in a political arena and equates that as capability in a management arena. If we continue to measure political success and confuse it with the ability to have management success, we will continue repeating the same mistakes in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

My largest worry is not in the short term, it is in the long term. What our country lacks today, what it yearns for today, what it deserves today is courageous, moral leadership, not political leadership. It is OK to have a debate about the controversies society faces. It is not OK for us to run because we are going to get hit by the press because we take a position that is different from that that is politically correct but is based on moral certitude that all life has value. Yet we run from the debate, the true Lincoln-Douglas type debates that held open the soul of America, so we can decide not on the basis of opinion but on the basis of historical fact. The basis of historical fact is this: When societies quit valuing life, societies fail to flourish.

We have a nominee who, for whatever reason, vetoes a bill that says: If you are a doctor, you ought to explain yourself if you are going to take the life of a 26-week infant in utero. You should have to get a second opinion. You ought to demonstrate that you are doing what is in the best interest of the mother and child.

It is hard to demonstrate a best interest for a child when you turn it around in the womb, deliver it two-thirds of the way out, and then destroy it. That is a debate we ought to have. It doesn't just apply to the issue of abortion and unwanted pregnancy; it is a barometer of the soul of the Nation. We offer no excuse that can be recognized as valuable for the betterment of society when we don't have that fundamental debate.

There is a flaw, a critical defect in this nominee. If you are going to be charged with the health and services that relate to health and humans in this society, that you are confused on this issue about transparency and accountability of taking the life of an unborn child is a nonstarter with me, not because I dislike Kathleen Sebelius. She is a wonderful lady. But she lacks part of the moral clarity that is required to lead this Nation in the future and to correct where we are off course on so many issues. Her ability from the start, the first day she is sworn in, will be compromised by her position on this issue. The confidence she will require of the Members of Congress who relate to this foundational principle of liberty as an inalienable right and life as an inalienable right will undermine her from the start.

I have no doubt she will be approved today. I mark it as another signpost on the way to oblivion as a nation when we empower those who don't recognize the value of life in positions that should be guarding that very precept and foundational principle of the Republic. My hope is that the American people, who by 88 percent think this is an atrocious procedure and should never be done, no matter what parameters are put on it, will wake up and say: What are we doing? What are we doing?

For those reasons, and those reasons alone, I will vote against the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius.

I suggest the absence of a quorum and ask unanimous consent that time under the quorum call be divided equally.

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