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Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003-Conference Report

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, this is an historic day. For the first time since Roe v. Wade, we are going to deal with the issue of abortion and limit the practice in one significant way. This is an historic day for life; for establishing and supporting a culture of life in the United States; for freedom; and for human rights—for the dignity of the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us, which we all profess to support.

This is will go down in history as a pivotal day, where we start to recognize that the child in the womb is a child. The child in the womb is not a piece of property. The child is, indeed, a person with dignity and rights and is entitled to life. That is a very important thing for us to recognize and for the United States to support.

I will begin my comments by showing a picture of a very young child. Thanks to modern technology, we are able to see a lot more these days. We now have what is called 4D, four dimensional, CAT scans of children in the womb. We can see children smiling and yawning in the womb at a very young age.

I recently had a gentleman in my office—we actually had him testify in front of the Commerce Committee—who performs surgeries on children in the womb—in utero surgeries. This gentleman works on children in the womb a great deal, and in doing these surgeries, for example, he says a child in the womb acts just like a child outside the womb. One has to go into the womb, when they are performing the surgery, to anesthetize the child. When a doctor goes in with a needle to poke the child in the womb, they have to chase them. There is a confined area that the child can run around in the womb, but as they go in with that needle the child jerks back, holds their buttocks back. They do not like to get the needle in them.

Having five children myself—two of them are five now—I know it is a major procedure for us to go in and get immunizations in the doctor's office. For us to get two children immunized, it takes five people—two holding down, one giving the shot, and a couple of us saying, there, there, it is all right.

It turns out that children in the womb are very similar. They do not like the pain. They feel it. They pull back from it.
They repulse, and yet it is something we need to do.

I wish to continue my remarks by talking about a famous young child who is probably more famous before he was born than most people are during their life—Samuel Alexander Armas. I had him testifying about 2 months ago. He is now 3 years old. Samuel is a unique and beautiful child. He actually testified in front of the committee.

This is his hand coming out of his mother's womb. He had spina bifida, which a number of people recognize is a very difficult thing. The spinal cord does not develop. The child generally has great difficult in mobility and can also be deaf resulting from that. Yet we have now found a way that in utero, in the womb, that we can operate on that child and close that area.

When Samuel testified at age 3 in front of my committee, he was fine; though, he does have some mobility problems with his legs. When his parents discovered that he had spina bifida, they had recommendations from their physicians that the pregnancy should be terminated. The parents said, no, no, we believe in life. We are not going to do this to our child. At that time, they had even named him Samuel. They asked: What else can we do? They were told of in utero surgeries, and they decided to try it.

This in utero surgery actually took place at 21 weeks of age, which is about the timeframe that partial-birth abortions occur—21 weeks. I want to show a positive side of this. They went in and did the surgery on Samuel. They fixed the problem of the spina bifida. As they were concluding the surgery on Samuel, this picture was taken of his mother's womb.
The surgery on Samuel was resolved and a photographer from USA Today was in the room taking pictures. USA Today had asked previously if they could be present at the surgery, taking pictures. This surgery was being done at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The photographer was there. He had taken pictures throughout the surgery. The surgery was just wrapping up when all of a sudden they saw the womb shake a little bit and Samuel's hand comes out of the womb.

The doctor is looking at it. Out of curiosity, I guess, as much as anything, he puts his finger near the womb and Samuel grabs the doctor's finger—21 weeks of age, and Samuel holds onto it.

The photographer, in just a moment's notice, just clicks it. He doesn't know if he even gets the picture. He just senses that there is something important that has just happened. The hand lets go and goes back into the womb—Samuel likes it better in the womb at this point in time—and they close up the womb. The surgery is successful.

This picture that appeared in USA Today—it has actually been all over the world and is one of those famous pictures—has been renamed "The Hand of Hope," as Samuel reaches out from the womb and grabs hold of that next generation already there, seeking and yearning to join them.

The photographer was stunned about it. He was stunned how the picture had come out. He was stunned by the response that he received around the world. He gets e-mails on a regular basis, all the time, frankly, in response to this "Hand of Hope." It has appeared in USA Today and in newspapers around the world multiple sets of times.

We had Samuel in to testify. We had his parents testify about what they went through to undergo this surgery. We had a doctor testify about the number of things we can now cure in utero. I think it is important that we start to cover children in utero because, when you have these sorts of surgeries, they are expensive, but they are important and they are better covered at that point in time. This is a heroic thing. It is a beautiful thing.

It is the other end of the tragedy that we close here today because Samuel, until this procedure is banned, could be aborted legally and killed by this brutal procedure called partial-birth abortion. Partial-birth abortion is a procedure that we have had gruesomely described to the American public on numerous occasions. So while at this stage of life, Samuel has a hand of hope. He also could legally be killed at this point in time by that brutal procedure, partial-birth abortion, which involves no anesthetic, nothing—just a brutal, gruesome procedure that we will not stand for anyplace in the world, being the country that we are that believes in freedom and hope and in opportunity for everybody. We believe in life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The central debate we are finally getting out into is this little hand of Samuel, and asking is that the hand of a person or is that the hand of a glob of tissue? Is it the hand of an individual? Is it the hand of an extension of the mother? Is it a person or is it a piece of property? That is the central question, and it is a question we have wrestled with before. We wrestled with this question on the slave issue when we—in that original sin of the United States of having slavery—would not recognize an individual as a person but rather as a piece of property. It was a horrible thing, a horrible chapter. We have all recognized that and we say it was a bad thing.

Now we are on the same debate. Here is little Samuel's hand. Is it the hand of a person or the hand of a piece of property?
If it is property, we can dispose of it as we choose to see fit. If it is a person, it has rights and we have responsibilities towards that beautiful child; that Samuel is and is on a continuum, this child, from that point of time as well.

Do we want that child killed or do we want that child cured? Do we want that child in our society or do we want that child somehow just kind of done away with for whatever reason the case might be?

I do hope we get into a substantial and long-term debate about the nature of Samuel and his hand of hope as he reaches out from the womb and, by that little hand, says to us: I am a person. I am yearning to be free, yearning to live. I have much to give to you. I have much to give to this society. I have much to help with, and I want to do it and I want to be able to help you. I want to be there with you when my time comes. And Samuel did. He came out, and he is now with us.

We are this day moving forward on an issue of human dignity that I think is incredibly important. I think it is also an obligation for us to stand and recognize that human life—at whatever stage—is sacred, unique, and a precious gift. Each day when we have the call that says we lost a soldier in Iraq—two—three—each of us in this country just gets sick at the stomach because that person was somebody's brother; that person was somebody's sister; that person was somebody's father or mother; that person is unique, sacred, and that person is precious to us.

Is Samuel Alexander Armas any less unique and sacred and precious? If you kill him at this point in time, isn't he dead for the rest of his life? Is it somehow that because he is in the womb he is not a life continuum at that point in time? Is there something different here?

At this point in time he is property, and then when he comes out of the womb he becomes a person with rights and responsibilities? Why? Is it that he is dependent here in the womb? He is dependent when he is born, but he is property here that can be disposed of, and he is a person who must be protected when he is born? His hand speaks to us. His hand challenges us. His hand is a hand of hope to us as a society that says, yes, we recognize the rights of the most vulnerable amongst us, and we are going to protect them. We are going to stand for them. We are not going to let them be killed.

This is an enormous day. This has been a long, 7-year fight about the issue of partial-birth abortion. In many ways it has been instructive to us as a country. I am absolutely convinced the American people are convinced that Samuel is a child and not somehow a piece of property or a lump of tissue. People in this country do not want children killed. They do not want that to take place.

As this debate has gone on and on, what we found is the American public has shifted. Now, particularly amongst young women of child-bearing age, you are seeing for the first time since this has been recorded that they are more pro-life than pro-choice. They are recognizing this is a child, it is a person, it has rights, it has beauty, it has things it wants to contribute. It is important that we let that child contribute.

Last weekend was a celebration of Mother Teresa's beatification. It is quite something. A number of people in this body had a chance to meet Mother Teresa—a great contributor to the society around the world to the most weak and defenseless.
She often came to the United States and graced us with her presence. She talked about the beautiful things, and she would talk about each of us having our own Calcuttas, where we can help people wherever we are. She talked about poverty in America. Actually, she was talking about the poverty of love.

She was most harsh about the institution of abortion, where a mother would end the life of her own child. She cared deeply for the mother and she cared deeply for the child.

She once said this: If we can accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?

She asked this sort of haunting, piercing question. If we allow this in society, don't we spawn a continual culture of death instead of a culture of life at the very inception of things? What do we say to Samuel later on? Well, OK, we could have killed you by a brutal procedure at this point in time, legally, and that would have been fine, or we could have saved your life. There was no protection in particular one way or the other.

This is an important day for life. It is an important day for a transition in the culture of life. I ask people who are opposed to this ban to look at this hand of Samuel.

My colleague from California cares passionately about this issue, and about the issue of choice and the right of a woman to choose. But I don't know that she or anybody else can deny that this is the hand of a child, and we have some responsibilities to that child as well. Maybe we can call a hand a piece of property. But I don't know how else biologically it could be defined. I don't know how else physically it could be defined.

With each passing day, and our technology getting better and better and better, I really do ask people on the other side, Is this not a child?

Am I not a person? Am I not a brother? A sister? Am I not?

Others care deeply about the right to choose. I respect that. But we all have choices to make. Is it one that we choose to terminate a brother or sister, a person who could be a parent, a person who could be a contributor, or do we not?

It really is a defining moment. I hope people on the other side would look at this picture and say: Yes, I cannot deny the humanity of that hand, the hand of hope. I support the ban on partial-birth abortion and look forward to the day when it is signed.

I yield the floor.

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