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Public Statements

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

Location: Washington, DC

PAGE S3560
March 12, 2003


Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I rise to speak to this important issue for a few moments and begin by saying that the event the Senator from Ohio described is indeed extremely troubling and would be classified as horrific by most people. If the Durbin amendment were adopted, that would not happen again unless the mother's life, through the determination of the physician, was in jeopardy, or her grievous physical health.

    I argue with the Senator from Ohio and the Senator from Pennsylvania that if they were indeed—and I respect both Senators—serious about stopping what Senator DeWine just described, the Durbin amendment has the best chance of stopping that from ever happening again than the pending bill by the Senator from Pennsylvania.

    That is why I support the Durbin amendment. That is why I am a cosponsor of the Durbin amendment. Many of us come to the floor with very good intentions, to try to work to help fashion some compromises that would end what was just described, but also allowing for the Constitution to provide a framework according to Roe v. Wade, which does not represent—although it has been characterized inappropriately, and not clearly by both sides, because this debate, unfortunately, for 30 years or more, has been held hostage by the extremes on both sides.

    I want to review, for the purpose of this debate, some writings from Roe v. Wade. To my friends on the pro-choice side, let me remind them of a paragraph in Roe v. Wade, written by Justice Blackmun:

    Some argue that a women's right is absolute and that she is entitled to terminate her pregnancy at whatever time, in whatever way, and for whatever reasons she alone chooses. With this we do not agree.

    Roe v. Wade does not support that proposition. Let me read, for the pro-life community, from this decision, which was delicately crafted to address a very complex constitutional provision that was framed initially in the Bill of Rights, supported by the Constitution, and those principles are the principles of life, liberty, and happiness, not just for the fetus, for the unborn, for young children, but life, liberty, and happiness for people of all ages and all conditions in life, male and female, slave and free.

    For the pro-life community, let me read what the Justices said:

    A State criminal abortion statute of the current Texas type, that excepts from criminality only a lifesaving procedure on behalf of the mother, without regard to pregnancy stage and without recognition of the other interests involved [obviously], is violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    I suggest unless there are a majority of Senators willing to change the Constitution and remove the 14th amendment, this debate is going nowhere. The fact is that the Constitution supports a framework in which life and liberty for everyone, including the unborn, have to be taken into consideration.

    I argue that the Senator from Illinois puts forth a very good amendment on the floor because we want to attempt, as a society, to outlaw late-term abortions, which violates our sense of decency and morality, within the framework of the Constitution, unless the woman's life is at risk or unless the woman is in grave physical health.

    The American people do not agree with the extremes on both sides. The fact is, with all due respect to the Senators from Pennsylvania and Ohio, this is not an amendment that anybody could put on the floor that they would agree to, because they are opposed to abortion in every case, under every circumstance. They believe it should be outlawed. They are entitled to that position, to represent it, and they are entitled to run on it, which they have, and they have gotten elected. But I say that the majority of people in the country believe that in some situations abortion should be legal and safe, and we are attempting to make it more rare. But without the support of either the right or the left, the Senator from Illinois puts forth this amendment in good faith, and I support him, and so do some Republican Senators.

    The country is very torn. In reading this decision, as I just reviewed portions of it, you can understand that the Justices themselves thought it was a very delicate compromise that had to be put together based on the Constitution and the laws and views of the American public.

    According to recent polling, only 33 percent, or less, of the population would ban all abortions under all circumstances; 29 percent would allow unfettered abortions; and the vast majority of Americans fall in the middle, which is understandable.

    Late-term abortions are one of those positions we can actually do something about. While people have mixed views about it, this amendment would in fact outlaw all late-term abortions, all procedures.

    The Santorum amendment only attempts to outlaw one procedure. I argue that once the Court is faced with it, it is not going to uphold it. So the end result of this debate is going to be not stopping one late-term abortion, when Senator Durbin's amendment would actually accomplish that end.

    The Durbin amendment draws a line at a place that—well, it is not crystal clear, but I ask you, what could possibly be crystal clear about this debate? Is anything crystal clear about it? Even though we think we are the smartest 100 people around, I think we can argue that we could not even make this debate crystal clear. There is no clarity about it. All you can do is do your very best. The Durbin amendment attempts to draw the line of viability. I argue that somebody else could put up another line. But at least viability has some clarity in medical terms. It is understandable, and I think acceptable, to the American people.

    Viability is a line that was recognized by the Supreme Court as part of the original decision. As medical research gets clearer—not perfectly crystal clear, but as it brings forth new information, it is something we can use in terms of the measurement.

    The State has still another important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life. These interests are separate and distinct. Each grows in substantiality as the woman approaches term and, at a point during pregnancy, each becomes compelling.

    That was also written by the Court.

    The Durbin amendment says that when we reach the point of viability, the interest in the potential of human life is compelling; it cannot be ended without serious cause. This amendment raises the standards for late-term abortions from its current just general health to physical health, which is why many on the left cannot support it.

    I think given the urgency of the Court and the Congress to protect viable life, perhaps raising the standard is necessary and I hope will be upheld by the Court.

    If my colleagues are interested in actually banning late-term abortion—which I most certainly support, and the vast majority of people in Louisiana support—we should not engage in the politics of division but try to reach common ground to do this. I believe the Durbin amendment offers us that very opportunity.

    I urge my colleagues to look beyond the rhetoric and to leave the fringe and move to the middle. Is this the answer to this whole question? No. But is it a step in the right direction to minimize abortions in this country? Yes. Is it something that would meet the constitutional test? Yes. Is it something that could be perfected over time? Yes. It is something that could have a direct impact on building the kind of compromise of which I think we could be proud. So I strongly urge my colleagues to support the Durbin amendment based on all that I have outlined.

    I yield back the remainder of my time.

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