Text of Floor Statement --------------------------------------------------------- Feedback Box:
Honorable Henry J. Hyde
Consideration of the Veto Message on HR 1122, Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act
July 23, 1998
Madam Speaker, first of all, I want to thank the chairman for allocating so much time to me. I hope and pray I do not use it all. I know I express the feelings of everyone in the chamber that I do not use it all.
I also want to say at the outset that I will not yield, and I would appreciate the courtesy of not being interrupted, because I do not choose to yield.
I also want to briefly respond to my good friend, the gentlewoman from New York (Ms. Lowey). I do not know anyone I admire more than she. This is a soul-wrenching issue. Your passion, your commitment, is respected on my side, and certainly by me, and all I ask is that you respect our passion and commitment, because people of goodwill can be on both side of this issue.
That is the wonder and the beauty of this debate, that we are here today talking about the most fundamental issues, life and death, health verses a life. That is the problem. You are trading apples and oranges, or chickens and horses. A life and health.
To me if you put those on the scale, life weighs heavier. Health has been defined by the Supreme Court almost amorphously. It is a state of well- being. Roe v. Wade and the other case, Doe v. Bolton, they defined health for us in the most poetic way, a state of well-being.
So the problem is, if health is an exception and the abortionist defines what is an impairment of health, I would suggest that the little unborn ought to have an Independent Counsel, because there is a conflict of interest there between the abortionist finding that a woman's health will be impaired. So it is not a simple question.
Demeaning to women? Over half the children that are aborted are women. I do not want to demean women; my God, no. I was married for 45 years. I have had a mother, a sister, a daughter. I never would want to demean women. But I do not want to trivialize the unborn either.
Now, I go through life trying to offend as few people as possible, and I do not always succeed. I may offend some people today, because I want to talk about slavery. I am keenly aware that there are some people who resent bitterly any discussion of slavery or the Holocaust, emphasizing the uniqueness, the singularity of those two realities that are a part of our human history, and saying that nothing can compare to them in evil, and I agree.
I think slavery is absolutely unique in its horror and in its evil, and I think the Holocaust similarly is unique. But there are lessons to be learned. History is nothing if it does not teach us something. I analogize, I do not compare; I look for the common thread in slavery, the Holocaust and abortion, and, to me, the common thread is dehumanizing people. I intend to make that point, because I think we have to learn from history, so that at least in this context, past will not be prologue.
So I would like to tell you about a recent movie you may have seen, called Amistad, named after a Spanish sailing ship used in the African slave trade in 1839, where some 39 survivors of a mutiny find themselves in a legal battle before the United States Supreme Court. Based on a true story, they are represented by an elderly infirm John Quincy Adams' (played magnificently by Anthony Hopkins) whose summation to the court struck me as remarkably appropriate to the issue before us today.
Adams tells the Justices that this is the most important case ever to come before the court, because it concerns "the very nature of man."
Of course, that was the central issue in debating the legitimacy, morality of slavery, namely, humanity of the slave. Is the slave a chattel, mere property, to be bought and sold? Or is he or she a human being with human rights?
We here today make the same argument that that little, almost-born baby, whose arms and legs flailing, whose little chest harbors a beating heart, is a human being, with human rights, even if his or her human life can be snuffed out by the plunge of the abortionist's surgical scissors into the back of the tiny neck.
Yes, partial birth abortion also concerns the very nature of man.
Later, Adams stands near a framed copy of the Declaration of Independence and he asks the question that we who support life for the preborn have been asking for years. Looking at this Declaration, he says "What of this annoying document? This Declaration of Independence? What of its conceits, all men created equal, inalienable rights, life, liberty and so on.
What on earth do we do with this?"
He then says he has a modest suggestion, and he takes a copy of the Declaration and tears it up .
A tall, impressive man, Cinque, exuding strength, is the leader of the slaves, and he has told John Quincy Adams that in his tribe in the Sierra Leone, the Mende, when they encounter a hopeless situation, they call on their ancestors.
Adams tells the court this belief that if they summon the spirits of their ancestors, their wisdom and strength will come to their aid. He then points to Cinque and speaks of his ancestors, from the beginning of time, and tells the court that this man, Cinque, is the whole reason his ancestors have ever existed at all.
When you think about it, each of us have ancestors that go back to the beginning of time, and we, here, now, are the whole reason they ever existed. We are their progeny, we are their culmination.
And just think of what our ancestors had to endure through the long and bloody centuries, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, conquest, slaughter, famine and death, wars and plagues, natural disaster. And they survived it all, so that we might be born here and now to debate this issue of partial birth abortion.
So we have this little infant, arms flailing, legs squirming, little heart pounding away, and, with the plunge of the abortionist's surgical scissors, in a painful and cruel instant, that ancestral odyssey through the centuries is extinguished.
Think of Whittier's great lines:
"Of all the sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddesst are these;
'It might of been.'"
Loneliness. We all know something about lineliness. It is one of life's most mournful experiences. We have all been lonely, and it teaches us how much we humans need each other. What a special loneliness it must be for that little almost-born baby to be surrounded by people who want to kill him.
I stand in awe of anyone who could perform, much less participate in, such a grisly inhuman act. It must take a heart of stone and a soul of ice. A vote against this motion to override is to legitimate thousands of acts of appalling cruelty, not to an animal, a creature of the sea or the forest, but a fellow human being who has the misfortune to be temporarily unwanted.
You have this chance today to put an end to a process of unspeakable destructive cruelty, unworthy of a civilized society.
Our beloved America is becoming "The Killing Fields." One state has accepted euthanasia, so the elderly can be killed legally, and the abortion culture has resulted in 35 million abortions since Roe v Wade in 1973. Kill them in the womb, and now, with partial birth abortion, kill them out of the womb, but keep killing them!
Those whose real agenda is to keep all types of abortion legal, at any stage, for any reason, have built their case on one lie after another.
There is no polite way to say this. Deceptive? Misinformation? If one wants to be intellectually honest, you have to call a lie what it is. First they claim this procedure did not exist. When a paper written by the doctor who invented it surfaced, they changed their story, asserting it was only used when the woman's life was in danger. But then the same doctor admitted that 80% of his partial birth abortions were elective.
Then they lied about the anesthesia. Planned Parenthood told us the baby does not feel any pain. The anesthesia given to the mother transfers itself in the womb to the baby, and the baby does not feel any pain. The anesthesiologists went off the wall, because that frightened women into thinking their babies are at risk if they get anethesia, and the anesthesiologists came in and testified that was a falsehood, and they shot this down in a hurry.
The Executive Director of the National Abortion Federation admitted on Nightline, and these are his words, that he had "lied through his teeth" about this procedure, thousands of them are performed on healthy little babies, and he was distressed at the loss of credibility the abortion cause was suffering because of the lies.
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop reacted to the President's veto with this statement: "I believe that Mr. Clinton was misled by his medical advisors on what is fact and what is fiction." Such a procedure cannot be truthfully called "medically necessary" for either mother or the baby. Gee, the Administration listens to Dr. Koop on tobacco -- I wish they would listen to him on partial birth abortion.
For over two centuries of our national history, we have struggled to create a society of INCLUSION --- we keep widening the circle of those for whom we are responsible -- the aged, the infirm, the poor. Slaves were freed, women were enfranchised, civil rights and voting rights acts were passed, our public spaces made accessible to the handicapped, Social Security for the elderly -- all in the name of widening the circle of inclusion and protection.
This great trajectory in our national history has been shattered by Roe v. Wade and its progeny. By denying an entire class of human beings the welcome and protection of our laws, we have betrayed the best in our tradition.
We have also put at risk every life which someday someone might find inconvenient.
Madame Speaker, we cannot repair the damage to our culture done by Roe v. Wade -- we cannot undo the injustice done to 35 million tiny babies who have been exterminated, because seven Justices, strip mining the Constitution, found a right to abortion that no one had seen for 200 years.
We cannot unring the bell, we cannot undo that injustice, but we can stop the barbaric butchery of partial birth abortion.
We betray our own humanity if we do not.
Matthew 25 is often read at Catholic funeral masses. It is a lovely passage.
"I was hungry and you fed me
I was naked and you clothed me
I was a stranger and you took me in".
That is what I ask here today,
WELCOME THE LITTLE STRANGER
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