Partial Birth Abortion Speech

by Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois to the House of Representatives on Partial-Birth Abortion. Recevied from Paula Nichols via PK on 9/26/96

....I also want to say briefly that those who have charged us with
invidious politics, for delaying this, ought to understand that Americans
can't believe this practice exists and it has taken months to educate the
American people, and it'll take many more months to educate them as to the
nature and extent of this horrible practice.  That is one reason it has
taken so long.
Now the law exists to protect the weak from the strong.  That's why we're
here.  Mr. Speaker, in his classic novel _Crime and Punishment_,
has his murderous protagonist ... say man can get used to anything, the
That we're even debating this issue, that we have to argue about the
of an abortionist plunging a pair of scissors into the back of the tiny
of a little child whose trunk, arms, and legs have already been
delivered, and
then suctioning out his brains only confirms Dostoevsky's harsh truth.  We
were told in Committee by an attending nurse that the little arms and legs
stop flailing and suddenly stiffen as the scissors is plunged in.  People
who say "I feel your pain" aren't referring to that little infant.
What kind of people have we become that this procedure is even a matter
debate?  Can't we drawn the line at torture and baby torture at that?  If
can't, what's become of us?  We're all incensed about ethnic cleansing.
What about infant cleansing?  There is no argument here about when human
begins.  The child who is destroyed is unmistakably alive, unmistakably
and unmistakably brutally destroyed.  The justification for abortion has
always been the claim that a woman can do with her own body what she will.
Well, if you still believe that this four-fifths delivered little baby is
part of the woman's body, then I'm afraid your ignorance is invincible.
I finally figured out why supporters of abortion on demand fight this
infanticide ban tooth and claw.  Because for the first time since Roe v.
Wade, the focus is on the baby, not the mother, not the woman, but the
baby.  And the harm that abortion inflicts on an unborn child, or in this
instance, a four-fifths born child, that child whom the advocates of
abortion on demand have done everything in their power to make us ignore,
to dehumanize, is as much a bearer of human rights as any member of this
House.  To deny those rights is more than a betrayal of a powerless
individual, it betrays the central promise of America that there is in
this land justice for all.  The supporters of abortion on demand have
exercised an amazing capacity for self-deception by detaching themselves
from any sympathy whatsoever for the unborn child, and in doing so, they
separate themselves from the instinct for justice that gave birth to this
Dr. C. Everett Koop, the last credible Surgeon General that we had, was
interviewed by the American Medical Association on August 19, and he was
asked "President Clinton just vetoed a bill on partial birth abortions.
In so doing, he cited several cases in which women were told these
procedures were necessary to preserve their health and their ability to
have future pregnancies.  How would you characterize the claims being
made in favor of the medical need for this procedure?"
Quoting Dr. Koop:  "I believe that Mr. Clinton was misled by his medical
advisors on what is fact and what is fiction in reference to late-term
Question:  "In your practice as a pediatric surgeon, have you ever treated
children with any of the disabilities cited in this debate?"  Have you
operated on children born with organs outside of their bodies?"
Answer:  "Oh yes indeed.  I've done that many times.  The prognosis is
There are two common ways that children are born with organs outside of
their body.  One is an omphalocele, where the organs are out but still
contained in the sac composed of the tissues of the umbilical cord.  I
have been repairing these since 1946.  The other is when the sac is
ruptured.  That makes it a little more difficult.  I don't know what the
national mortality would be, but certainly more than half of those babies
survive after surgery.  Every once in a while, you have other peculiar
things such as the chest being wide open, and the heart being outside the
body.  And I have even replaced hearts back in the body and had children
grow to adulthood."
Question:  "And live normal lives?"
Answer:  "Living normal lives.  In fact, the first child I ever did with
a huge omphalocele much bigger than her head went on to develop well and
become the head nurse in my intensive care unit many years later."
The abortionist who is a principal perpetrator of these atrocities, Dr.
Martin Haskell, has conceded that at least 80% of the partial birth
abortions he performs are entirely elective.  80% are elective, and he
admits to over 1000 of these abortions, and that's some years ago.  We're
told about some extreme cases of malformed babies as though life is
only for the privileged, the planned, and the perfect.  Dr. James McMahon,
the late Dr. James McMahon, listed nine such abortions he performed
because the baby had a cleft lip.
Oh, the President claims he wants to solve a problem by adding a health
exception to the partial birth abortion ban.  That is spurious, as anyone
who has spent ten minutes studying the Federal law understands.  Health
exceptions are so broadly construed by the Court, not what we write, but
the Court, as to make any ban utterly meaningless.  In his memoirs, Dwight
Eisenhower wrote about the loss of 1.2 million lives in World War II, and
he said the loss of lives that might have otherwise been creatively lived
scars the mind of the civilized world.
Mr. Speaker, our souls have been scarred by 1.5 million abortions every
in this country.  Our souls have so much scar tissue there isn't room for
any more.  It isn't just the babies that are dying for the lethal sin of
being unwanted or being handicapped or malformed.  We are dying, and not
from the darkness but from the cold.  The coldness of self brutalization
that chills our sensibilities, deadens our conscience, and allows us to
think of this unspeakable act as an act of compassion.  If you vote to
uphold this veto, if you vote to maintain the legality of a procedure that
is revolting even to the most hardened heart, then please don't ever use
the word "compassion" again.
A word about anesthesia.  Advocates of partial birth abortions tried to
tell us the baby doesn't feel pain.  The mother's anesthesia is
to the baby.  We took testimony from five of the country's top
anesthesiologists and they said this is impossible.  That result would
take so much anesthesia it would kill the mother.
By upholding this tragic veto, you join the network of complicity in
what is essentially a crime against humanity.  For that little almost born
infant struggling to live is a member of the human family, and partial
abortion is a lethal assault against the very idea of human rights, and
destroys along with a defenseless little baby, the moral foundation of
our democracy.  Because democracy isn't, after all, a mere process.  It
assigns fundamental rights and values to each human being, the first
of which is the inalienable right to life.  At the end of the 20th century
is the crowning achievement of our democracy to treat the weak, the
powerless, the unwanted as things to be disposed of???  If so, we haven't
elevated justice.  We've disgraced it.  This isn't a debate about
sectarian religious doctrine, nor about policy options.  This is a debate
about our understanding of human dignity, what does it mean to be human.
Our moment in history is marked by a mortal conflict between a culture
of death and a culture of life, and today, here and now, we must choose
sides.  I'm not the least embarrassed to say that I believe one day each
of us will be called upon to render an account for what we've done, and,
maybe more importantly, what we failed to do in our lifetime.  And while
I believe in a merciful God, I believe in a just God, and I would be
terrified at the thought of having to explain at the Final Judgment why
I stood unmoved while Herod's slaughter of the innocents was being
reenacted here in my own country.
This debate has been about an unspeakable horror.  And while the details
are graphic and grisly, it has been helpful for all of us to recognize
the full brutality of what goes on in America's abortuaries day in and
day out, week after week, year after year.  We're not talking about
abstractions here, we're talking about life and death at their most
elemental, and we ought to face the truth of what we oppose, or support,
stripped of all euphemisms, and the queen of all euphemisms is "choice",
as though you are choosing vanilla and chocolate instead of a dead baby
or a live baby.
Now we've talked so much about the grotesque.  Permit me a word about
beauty.  I believe nothing in this world of wonders is more beautiful
than the innocence of a child.  Do you know what a child is?  She's an
opportunity for love, and a handicapped child is an even greater
opportunity for love.  Mr. Speaker, we risk our souls, we risk our
humanity, when we trifle with that innocence, or demean it, or brutalize
it.  We need more caring, and less killing.  Let the innocence of the
unborn have the last word in this debate.  Let their innocence appeal
to what President Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.  Let
our votes prove (Dostoevsky) is wrong.  There is something we will never
get used to.  Make it clear once again, there is justice for all, even
for the tiniest most defenseless in this our land.

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