In September 1996, I stood on the floor of the United States Senate to respond to Sen. Barbara Boxer's comment that I was ignoring the "cries" of the women who came to Washington to lobby for the sustaining of President Clinton's veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.
My response? We would be deafened by the cries of the babies that are not here today, because of this procedure. I then addressed the comments by another senator likening the partial-birth procedure to an appendectomy. I pointed to the diagram depicting this gruesome procedure, in which a 5-month-old fetus is delivered alive, all but the head, and then, while the doctor's hand is making sure that the baby's head is not delivered, a pair of scissors are thrust into the base of the baby's skull. I raised my voice and said, "This is not an appendix; it is a baby, it's a baby."
The Washington Post described what happened next: "And then, impossibly, in an already hushed gallery, in one of those moments when the floor of the Senate looks like a stage set, with its small wooden desks somehow too small for the matters at hand, the cry of a baby pierced the room, echoing across the chamber from an outside hallway. No one mentioned the cry, but for a few seconds, no one spoke at all."
After 12 years, three bills sent to two presidents for signature, two veto override attempts and one faulty Supreme Court decision, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is today the law of the land. This was a hard-fought battle over what is a rather small piece of the legal landscape of abortion. In spite of this victory, not one abortion will be stopped by this law. Babies up to the moment of their separation from their mothers will still be subject to having their lives snuffed out simply because they are, at that particular moment, not wanted.
Former Senator Rick Santorum is the author of It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good. He is writing a second book on the “Gathering Storm of the 21st Century” – the war against a radical, Islamic fascist enemy and its growing alliances around the world.
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