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Senator Brownback Discusses the Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BROWNBACK. Madam President, I thank my colleague from Pennsylvania and my colleague on the other side of the aisle for this most spirited debate.

We are finally here debating the most difficult and contentious social issue of our day. This is one of those elephants in the living room that we in the country across America have been going around saying is not there; not wanting to focus on it; not wanting to confront it; but it is there. This is it, the issue of Roe v. Wade.

I was listening to colleagues, thinking of Mose's admonition: "Choose ye this day life or death." Which will it be? We are finally having the debate, Roe v. Wade.

I would like to remind colleagues. I read it again about 3 months ago. It is about federalizing State laws so we are clear on this. It is a lengthy opinion where they said we are going to take all of these State laws in a patchwork regarding allowing abortions, or not allowing it, and we are going to federalize it. We are going to discover a right to privacy and say this is built within the overall thinking of the Constitution, the original Framers. We are going to say there is a right to privacy that applies to reproductive health. We are going to take the State laws of Kansas, California, Iowa, the Pennsylvania and North Carolina law, we are going to take all of those laws, throw them all out, and say this is the law of the land. We are going to say we found it to be constitutional. There are a lot constitutional scholars who have grave questions about the nature of the basic fundamentals in Roe v. Wade, regardless of the issue of abortion, but finding this constitutional right. Lots of people have questions about this decision. I hope fundamentally people will recognize that if you repeal Roe v. Wade, you go back to allowing the States to decide this issue, which is the way it was prior to Roe v. Wade. The States decided this issue. Kansas had a set of laws. Other States had sets of laws. This is how it was resolved and dealt with across the land. That is what we are talking about.

People are saying if you repeal Roe v. Wade, everything goes back into a back alley and no abortions would be allowed in the United States.

To be factually correct, what happens? This goes back to the States to decide how they will handle this particular issue if you do not have Roe v. Wade. When people paint such a cataclysmic change, we recognize what we are truly legally talking about on Roe v. Wade. What has happened since Roe v. Wade? It has been 30 years now, or a little more. Forty million babies have been aborted in the United States. We are now back and debating this fundamental issue.

Really, when you boil it all down, it is what is the legal status of a young human. The Senator from Pennsylvania beautifully put forward the competing issues of interest here of one side—the mother and the child. Fundamentally, you have to look at it and ask yourself and decide why as a country we have not been willing to confront this issue. What is the legal status of the child in utero? What is it? Is it a person or it is a piece of property? It is one of the two.

When the child is out of the mother's womb, we have clearly decided. Five seconds ahead of that time when it is in the womb, what is this child? Five months in the womb, what is this child? Is it a person or is it a piece of property? You can say that is an odd way of putting the debate.

One of the people who inspired me in this legislative arena was a gentleman named William Wilberforce, a parliamentarian in England. He led the battle for ending the slave trade by Great Britain. They had this debate on the fundamental issue of what is a slave. Is it a person or a piece of property? They even did a Wedgewood plate on this. They had a person in chains as a slave. They put a question around it. "Am I not a man and a brother?" They asked society that question. "Am I not a man and a brother?"

What is the child in the womb? Is it not a person and a brother? When will we decide? We just simply haven't been willing to say it. We have been willing to duck around different avenues on it. Now we are talking about research on the young human. We decided to treat it as property when talking about patenting young human life. You can't patent a person. Therefore, it must be property. But we are uncomfortable stating that in law because somehow it doesn't seem quite right.

When we let the child live, it becomes a person under everybody's definition. This actually happened in the slave debate. At one point in time in our Constitution we said a slave is three-fifths of a person because we weren't willing to say it was a person. It is property, so it is three-fifths. We all look back, that was horrible, and that was wrong. We know it was wrong.

Now you are finding that courts are hearing cases about frozen embryos and contesting between the mother and the father in a divorce case on whether to implant or not. They are asking the question in the divorce case: What is the frozen embryo, a person or piece of property? Now the courts are having to use the same sort of terms that were used in the slave debate. They are asking, Is it a quasi-human with the potential for life? They are still trying to get around the question of person or property. Which is it? It is one or the other. It is one or the other. The courts are trying to find that in a contorted way. It is not quite either because we don't want to face it now.

That is the fundamental question of Roe v. Wade. Is it a person or is it property? Am I not a man and a brother?

We have coarsened our society in a period of time since Roe v. Wade. Since 1973, approximately 40 million abortions have taken place in this country. We now have a debate in the Nation about whether we are going to have a culture of life or a culture of death. I think we would all agree we want a culture of life.

What does that mean? That means we support and stand for life. We stand for it in all phases of life. We stand for it in all difficulties and all types of life. It doesn't mean somebody who has some physical handicap has any less of a life than what I have or the Presiding Officer or anybody in this room. This is life we want to celebrate. We want to take that celebration to the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. We want them to be able to celebrate the culture of life. We want to project that and send that around the world, that we believe in the culture of life.

That is what this debate is about. Choose today life or death, culture of life.

Is a young human a person or property? I think scientific evidence clearly teaches over time, if it hasn't already, that this is a person. You can't treat it any other way.

I am glad we are having this debate. I am glad my colleague from Iowa raised this issue. It is an important one for us. I hope we can conclude this. We support the culture of life.

I yield the floor and reserve the remainder of time allotted to me.

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