Skip to comments.TRANSCRIPT: Senator Rick Santorum and Senator Hillary Clinton discussing Partial Birth Abortion
Posted on 03/13/2003 10:05:03 AM PST by Registered
Mr. HARKIN. I yield the Senator an additional 5 minutes.
Mrs. CLINTON. We are talking about those few rare cases when a doctor had to look across a desk at a woman and say, I hate to tell you this, but the baby you wanted, the baby you care so much about, that you are carrying, has a terrible abnormality.
We had a chance yesterday to build on these successes and do even more for women's health and to prevent unwanted and unsafe pregnancies. Senator Murray's amendment would have increased access to contraceptive coverage by ensuring basic fairness for women in preventing health plans from discriminating against contraceptive coverage in their prescription drug plans. Yet my colleagues did not vote for that. They would much rather criminalize a health procedure than improve women's health. Senator Murray's amendment would have also provided Medicaid and CHIP coverage for pregnant women and their newborns. Yet again, we defeated that on a budget point of order because we are not really interested in women's health. That is not really what this debate is about.
I have to ask myself, why do we, as government officials, expect we can make these decisions? We know that people of means will always be able to get any health care procedure they deem necessary. That is the way it was before Roe v. Wade. That is the way it will be after this passes the Senate.
So who are we really leaving out? We are leaving out the vast majority of American women, middle income women, working women who can't get on an airplane to go to Sweden or some other place. I have also seen the results of that. In a hospital in northeast Brazil, a woman's hospital I visited, I went up and down the corridors. Half the women were there for the most wonderful of reasons, because they just had a baby. The other half were there because of problems they had encountered, mostly because of botched back-alley, illegal abortions. Some of them lost their fertility forever; some of them lost their lives.
When I asked the minister of health what they were going to do about this, he said to me: This is a classic case where it is the poor, the middle class that suffer. The rich can get whatever health care they need. We can make it illegal to get abortions. That doesn't bother the rich. There has always been a double standard. If you are rich, you get what you need. If you are poor, you are left to the back alleys.
That is one of the other reasons we had to do Roe v. Wade, because is it fair that we have that kind of distinction made on the basis of class or income instead of the basis of law?
We are facing a moment of historic importance, but not about what we should be debating at this time in our history. I only wish this legislation were not before us. But now that it is, we have to educate the American public.
I will end by referring again to the young woman, Mrs. Eisen, who was in my office yesterday, about 25 years younger than I am. Hard to imagine. She said: I had no idea that the decision I made with my husband and my doctor to deal with this genetic abnormality was something I could have never had under the laws of where I lived before, and that if this passes, it will become illegal in the future.
I said: Well, you didn't have to think about that. That was something that, thankfully, we took off the national agenda. But there are those who, from very deeply held beliefs, which I respect, would wish to substitute the Government's decision, just like they did in Romania and China, or substitute the roll of the economic dice, such as happens in Brazil and elsewhere for what should be a difficult, painful, intimate, personal decision.
This bill is not only ill-advised, it is also unconstitutional. I understand what the other side wants to do. They are hoping to get somebody new on the Supreme Court and to turn the clock back completely, to overrule Roe v. Wade, which is why the Senator from Iowa has such a timely amendment.
Is this bill really about what the sponsors say, or is it, as they candidly admit, the beginning of the end--to go back in this country to back-alley abortions, to women dying from botched, illegal procedures? I think you can draw your own conclusions.
It is up to the American public to determine whether they want medical decisions being criminalized by this Senate. Thank you.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.
Mr. SANTORUM. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mrs. CLINTON. Yes, on the Senator's time.
Mr. SANTORUM. Yes. The Senator from New York said that the women she had in her office who had late-term abortions--you characterized it that they would be ``forced to carry their children to term'' if this bill passed. Do you stand by that statement?
Mrs. CLINTON. Yes, I do.
Mr. SANTORUM. So you believe if this legislation passes outlawing partial-birth abortion, no late-term abortions would be available?
Mrs. CLINTON. That is what I believe based on what I consider to be the slippery slope of the legislative language that you have carefully and cleverly crafted in this bill.
Mr. SANTORUM. OK. I suggest that the Senator from New York examine the language. It is very clear that this is one particular kind of abortion we have addressed, and we have addressed the vagueness, as put forth by the U.S. Supreme Court. And there are other techniques available for abortion that are late term in nature, and this bill would in no way stop other abortions. In fact, the previous speaker on the Democrat side, Senator Kennedy, made that very point. He made the point that this will not stop abortions.
I respect your feelings and I also respect Senator Kennedy's. You both oppose the bill and you have opposite opinions on this issue.
Mrs. CLINTON. Will the Senator permit me to respond to his statement?
Mr. SANTORUM. Yes.
Mrs. CLINTON. I heard the Senator from Massachusetts referencing the fact that, legal or illegal, this is not going to prevent abortions where they are necessary.
My reading of the legislative language you have put forth, makes a very clear argument that this is a slippery slope; that there are going to be not only difficulties in defining procedures, but the fact is that once you have criminalized this procedure, what doctor will perform any medically necessary procedure? There is no reason to believe any doctor would put his practice and his life at risk.
As we know right now, a trial is going on in Buffalo, NY, for the murder of a doctor who provided such services.
Mr. SANTORUM. I thank the Senator. I gave her an opportunity to answer, and I have a couple more questions. No. 1, you suggested that this procedure was extreme. Does the Senator know the most recent Gallup polls--the polls consistently have shown that the banning of this procedure is supported by anywhere from 65 to 75 percent of the American public? What is your definition of ``extreme''?
Mrs. CLINTON. I respond to the Senator from Pennsylvania that I think it is extreme when the Government prescribes medical procedures that may--despite their not being ones that most of us would ever hope to have experienced by any loved one--be necessary in certain specific events, that were medically determined.
Mr. SANTORUM. So you would suggest that something that is supported by--you are going to maintain your
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comment that something that is supported by 70 percent of the American public is extreme?
Mrs. CLINTON. Well, I think the Senator from Pennsylvania is posing a false syllogism. Clearly, if people are told in a poll about the kinds of procedures that might be medically necessary out of context, I can certainly understand why the reaction might be that is not something that we want to talk about, not something we want to think about. But what I do think is extreme is making a decision in this body to outlaw a medical procedure that may be required and medically necessary.
Mr. SANTORUM. So you don't think the American public understands this issue well enough to be able to form a judgment--I think that is what you are saying--even though we have debated this issue and it has been very much in the literature across America now for 7 years. There have been referendums in States and wide debate. You just don't think the public understands it. I beg to differ with you on that. I think I could stipulate that something that has the support of 70 percent of the public is, by definition, not extreme. So if you don't agree, that is your position, and I respect that.
The other thing you said was the chart I had up is ``deceptive.'' I am very curious about how you came to that conclusion. Is it deceptive because it shows a perfectly formed baby?
Is the Senator aware of Ron Fitzsimmons who runs the Association of Abortion Clinics? He has said, when the argument was made by many of the people Senator Boxer and Senator Murray and yourself referred to, who came forward and talked about this being medically necessary or necessary because of complications late in pregnancy--Ron Fitzsimmons said he lied through his teeth when he gave that argument? That was his term. He said, ``I lied through my teeth'' that this was the case. He said it is a dirty little secret, and we all know--those are his terms--that late-term abortions are performed, and the vast majority of late-term abortions are performed on healthy mothers with healthy babies.
So do you believe it is deceptive to put before the American public the typical case of where a partial-birth abortion is performed, or would it be more deceptive to try to convince the American public that this is done for medical reasons, or on sick babies in the majority of cases, when it is not true?
Which would you say is more deceptive?
Mrs. CLINTON. You know, on the Senator's point, I am not arguing against any public education effort, any proselytizing, any means whatsoever to persuade people about what choice they should make. I don't, in fact, think that we have done enough to educate the public about reproductive health, about how to prevent unsafe and unwanted pregnancies, about how to improve contraception, and about what is really at stake in this debate over a women's right to make decisions about her own reproductive health. But for the Senator to imply that there are never instances of abnormalities and problems like the ones represented by the women in my office yesterday, which would be outlawed by your legislation, I believe is deceptive.
We could solve this, as we have now for 20, 30 years, by saying this is a debate that does not belong in the United States Senate. It belongs in the hearts, minds, consciences of women and their loved ones, and in the medical offices of
America, not the U.S. Senate.
Mr. SANTORUM. I will challenge you to find anyplace in the record over the last 7 years where I said that was never the case. I have never said there are not difficult cases. What I have said repeatedly, because I wanted to be truthful with respect to the factual situations with which we are presented on the issue of late-term abortions and the instances in which partial-birth abortions are used--I refer the Senator to the State of Kansas where they have to report the reason for a partial-birth abortion; 182 were done last year, or the year before, and of those 182, none--zero--were done because of a problem with the child or a physical problem with the mother. They were classified as mental health.
So I suggest to the Senator that those in the abortion industry themselves say this is the typical procedure on the typical baby. There may be--and there are--a small number of cases that are late-term where you find out the child within the womb has a fetal abnormality and may not live. I just suggest--and you used the term--where is the brainless head? Where are the lungs outside the body? I will just say I will be happy to put a child with a disability up there. But, frankly, I don't see the difference in my mind--and I am not too sure the public does--with respect to that being any less of a child.
It is still a child, is it not? Maybe it is a child that is not going to live long, but do we consider----
Mrs. CLINTON. Will the Senator yield?
Mr. SANTORUM. In a moment. Do we consider a child that may not live long, or may have an abnormality, to be less of a child? Is this less of a human because it is not perfect? Have we reached the point in our society where because perfection is so required of us, that those who are not perfect don't even deserve the opportunity to live for however long they are ticketed to live in this country?
Are we saying we need these kinds of infanticides to weed out those who are not going to survive or those who are not perfect, and that somehow or another we have to have a method available that we only allow perfect children to be born? If that is the argument, I am willing to stand here and have that debate. If that is what you want us to show, I am willing to stand and show that.
I suggest this is the typical abortion that goes with partial-birth. That is exactly what the industry says is the case. If the Senator would like me to find a child that has a cleft palate, I can do that. That doctor from Ohio performs a lot of abortions. He says he did nine in one year because of that. If she would like me to show a case of spina bifida, I can do that. That may be a reason someone has to have a late-term abortion.
I would be happy to show those, but those are the exception rather than the rule, and I think it is imperative----
Mrs. CLINTON. Will the Senator yield?
Mr. HARKIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. SANTORUM. I will be happy to. It is imperative upon us to present the standard, the predominant case in which partial-birth abortions are done, and that is what we are doing. I will be happy to yield for a question.
Mrs. CLINTON. The Senator from Iowa got in first.
Mr. HARKIN. Go ahead. The Senator is engaged in debate. I have a question.
Mr. SANTORUM. Fine.
Mrs. CLINTON. Does the Senator's legislation make exceptions for serious life-threatening abnormalities or babies who are in such serious physical condition that they will not live outside the womb?
Mr. SANTORUM. No, if----
Mrs. CLINTON. That is the point.
Mr. SANTORUM. I understand the Senator's point. I guess my point in rebuttal is that if you want to create a separation in the law between those children who are perfect and those children who are not----
Mrs. CLINTON. No----
Mr. SANTORUM. Please, let me finish. If a child is not perfect, then that child can be aborted under any circumstances. But if that child is perfect, we are going to protect that child more. I do not think the Americans with Disabilities Act would fit very well into that definition. The Americans with Disabilities Act--of which I know the Senator from Iowa has been a great advocate, and I respect him greatly for it--says we treat all of God's children the same. We look at all--perfect and imperfect--as creatures of God created in his image.
What the Senator from New York is asking me to do is separate those who are somehow not the way our society sees people as they should be today and put them somewhat a peg below legal protection than the perfect child. I hope the Senator is not recommending that because I think that would set a horrible precedent that could be extrapolated, I know probably to the disgust of the Senator from Iowa, certainly to me.
No, I do not have an exception in this legislation that says if you are perfect, this cannot happen to you; but if you are not perfect, yes, this can occur. The Senator is right, I do not.
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Mrs. CLINTON. To respond, if I could, to the Senator from Pennsylvania, my great hope is that abortion becomes rarer and rarer. I would only add that during the 1990s, it did, and we were making great progress. These decisions, in my view, have no place in the law, so they should not be drawing distinctions in the law. This ought to be left to the family involved.
The very fact the Senator from Pennsylvania does not have such a distinction under any circumstances, I think, demonstrates clearly the fallacy in this approach to have a government making such tremendously painful and personal and intimate decisions.
Mr. SANTORUM. I certainly respect the difference of opinion the Senator and I have on the underlying issue of abortion. Again, I think people can disagree on that. I, frankly, do not agree there should be a difference between children who are ``normal,'' in society's eyes--I do not know what that means anymore, what a society sees as normal--and those who happen to have birth defects, severe or not. I do not
believe we should draw distinctions.
Mrs. CLINTON. If the Senator will yield for one final point, I want the RECORD to be very clear that I value every single life and every single person, but if the Senator can explain to me how the U.S. Government, through the criminal law process, will be making these decisions without infringing upon fundamental rights, without imposing onerous burdens on women and their families, I would be more than happy to listen. But based on my experience and my understanding of how this has worked in other countries, from Romania to China, you are about to set up----
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania has the floor.
Mr. SANTORUM. To liken a ban on a brutal procedure such as partial-birth abortion to the forced abortion policies of China is a fairly substantial stretch, and I do not accept that as an analogy. I do not think it holds up under any scrutiny.
With respect to the other issue, let the record speak for itself.
Mrs. CLINTON. Madam President, if I can ask the Senator for one final point.
Mr. SANTORUM. On the Senator's time. I have been more than generous on my time.
Mr. HARKIN. I ask the Senator to yield.
Mr. SANTORUM. On the Senator's time.
Mr. HARKIN. The Senator has been very good about yielding for questions. If the Senator needs more time, I will join him in getting unanimous consent to give the Senator more time, if he needs it, because he has been very good about getting into a discussion. Do not worry about time. We will give you whatever time you want.
Mr. SANTORUM. I thank the Senator from Iowa.
Mrs. CLINTON. Is the Senator aware that in the very poll he cited, there is another finding? When Americans were asked if a law should be passed with no health exemption, 59 percent said no, it should not pass.
Mr. SANTORUM. I appreciate that. Again, that is a good open item for debate. I would suggest that most Americans--and that is why this debate the Senator from Iowa has brought up is so important--do not understand what the breadth of health exception means. I suspect most Americans understand when they hear health exception, they believe there is some imminent danger to the health of the mother. Of course, that is not what Doe v. Bolton says.
Doe v. Bolton talks very broadly of health. I will be happy to give the actual language. Doe v. Bolton is very broad on health to include everything from emotional and mental health to familial health, age of the mother. It is as broad a term--in fact, the courts have interpreted it to mean anything. It is an exception that, frankly, swallows up any limitation, restriction on abortion.
Yeah, but Pres. Bush's last term ends right after the election in 2008.
Great stuff. Startling to see her words in red, though appropriate for her status. [cue angels singing...now]
I was very impressed as well.
Funny, the Wicked Witch of the West Wing didn't seemed too concerned about bureaucrats doing just that when she tried to socialize the entire health care system.