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Government Leaders on Abortion

Senator John Ensign
U.S. Senator
John Ensign


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Mr. ENSIGN. Mr. President, the first thing I want to address is this: the other side has been talking about the health of the mother and that this bill includes a provision if the life of the mother is threatened. As far as the health of the mother is concerned, a select panel convened by the American Medical Association could not find any "identified circumstance" where a partial-birth abortion was the only appropriate alternative.

We have heard a lot of testimony from OB/GYNs and all kinds of medical experts that this procedure is never necessary. To argue that it is somehow medically necessary is a false argument. This procedure is so grotesque that when it is described, it makes people shudder. I once described this procedure when I spoke to some high school kids, and I used it as an example. I got complaints from the parents because we talked about such a gruesome procedure in a school. I can understand why they would be upset.

But people have to understand that this gruesome procedure is happening in the United States. What we are trying to do now in the Congress is to say that this is so outrageous that we need to ban it.

I am a health care professional, and I cannot even imagine a doctor or a nurse being involved in one of these procedures, delivering the baby out of the birth canal up to about here, the neck—arms and legs moving, holding that little baby in their hand, feeling life in their hand, a little heartbeat—and voluntarily taking forceps and jabbing them into the back of the skull. The skull is too big to come out so they have to collapse the skull down, sucking out the contents of the skull—the brains, basically. The baby at that point can feel pain. It is documented. In fact, it feels pain more than a normal child that has inhibitory pain fibers. We are saying this is somehow humane for the child, and that is literally beyond me.

This procedure is completely, in my mind, indefensible; it is infanticide. I want to talk about abortion in general because the other side is saying this is just chipping away at the rights of abortion. I remember when President Clinton said that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I think those were his terms. I was thinking to myself, safe, I can understand that; legal, from his perspective, I can understand that; but if you don't believe it is wrong, who cares whether it is rare?

If there is nothing wrong with abortion, why should it be rare? Who cares? If it is not a baby, if it is just a blob of tissue, like the other side says, who cares whether it happens all the time? Why do we care whether it is rare?

The reason even somebody like Bill Clinton says it should be rare is because there is something in our conscience that is telling us abortion is wrong. Eighty-six percent of Down syndrome babies are aborted today—86 percent. We have an incredible young man right out here who runs the elevators. His name is Jimmy. He has Down syndrome.

We have a great organization in Las Vegas called Opportunity Village which deals with a lot of people. It employs a lot of people, finds them a job, people with either congenital problems, whether Down syndrome or other problems, or whether they have had a brain injury. We are saying to those people: You don't have the right to live. We are saying to the Jimmys of the world: You know what, you aren't perfect, so you don't have the right to live. That is what abortion is about. Is it going to be difficult? Yes, but life isn't guaranteed to be easy.

Mr. President, we have to look at what we are becoming as a society. If we do not value human life to the point where it is okay to have little imperfections, what are we becoming as a society? Haven't we seen in history the societies that have tried to create the perfect race, how immoral that was? Isn't that what we are trying to do somewhat with abortions and some of the other new medical technologies that are coming out?

This is a very emotional issue, and I understand people who believe abortion should be legal. There are a lot of women who have had abortions, who have gone through incredible stress—post-abortion syndrome, as it is known. It is likened to post-traumatic stress syndrome. I feel bad, and I feel pain for those women and men who have been involved with abortions.

Sometimes as a defense mechanism, one tries to justify what one did. I think it is important for us to show compassion for those people who have been involved and it is important not to judge other people's motives. But at the same time, we have to look, as a country, at whether it is right or wrong. If it is a baby, it is wrong. It just is. If it is a baby, it is murder. If it is not a baby, if it is some tissue, like the other side says, that is exactly right, it should be legal. It should be absolutely legal, if it is just tissue. But if it is a human life, then that human life deserves to be defended. That innocent human life deserves all the protections of the law, whether it has Down syndrome, spina bifida, or any other congenital ailment. It deserves the same protection under our law any other "normal" healthy child has.

We have to look at ourselves as a society and what type of a society we want to have going into the future. America's greatness has been because we have had strong moral standards. This is the great moral problem of our day about which we have to do some soul-searching as a country, to be on our knees in prayer to figure out the right course of action. For me, it is clear.

I urge all of our colleagues to do a lot of soul-searching on this issue. I believe if you are honest, people will see the rights of a baby deserve to be protected.

I thank the manager of the bill and others who have been involved in this issue for the great work they have done. This is truly a fight worth doing and worth doing right.


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