In Case You Missed It— Earlier today [September 21, 2015], Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) spoke on the Senate floor in support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The full text of his remarks are below and can also be watched here.
Over the last year, I’ve learned a lot about the magic of human life—from conception to growth in the mother’s womb to childbirth to newborn development. This wasn’t part of my legislative work or public duties. And my newfound knowledge didn’t come from a course of study, reading scientific journals, or consulting with medical experts. Instead, like many parents, I learned through experience, the blessing of my first child.
My wife Anna gave birth to our very own little angel, Gabriel, almost five months ago. Since then, Gabriel has joined me on this very floor, at this very desk. Many of you have met our little man, and happily agreed that he appears to take after his mother.
Gabriel has been a part of our family from the beginning—long before he was born. I remember when Anna and I first discovered that she was pregnant. We were so excited, yet—like so many new parents—also apprehensive for his health and safety. Then, a year ago this week, we had our first appointment with the OB/GYN in Russellville. We couldn’t believe when we heard his little heartbeat on the ultrasound at barely nine weeks. Anna recalls that she “almost started crying,” though I don’t recall an “almost” for either one of us.
Just four weeks later, as the first trimester concluded, we got one of those perfect ultrasound shots. We saw Gabriel in profile, lying on his back, hands near his face, feet and legs kicked up in the air. We now know how much of his personality and habits had already developed by that point, because that position is how we usually find him when he wakes up from a nap. Soon after, he began to flip around, kick, and hiccup, which he also likes to do to this day.
All these things happened before the halfway point in Anna’s pregnancy—before Gabriel reached 20 weeks. And while he’s precious and one of a kind for us, it’s quite normal for a typical baby, as expecting parents can tell you and as modern medical science can now document.
While Anna carried Gabriel to term and he was born happy and healthy, many babies aren’t as lucky. But thanks to the miracle of medical science, babies aged just 20 weeks after fertilization can increasingly survive if born at that extremely premature age. A remarkable study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that babies aged 20-22 weeks could survive, with skilled and proper—though not extraordinary—medical intervention and treatment.
Likewise, advances in perinatology have made fetal surgery more common and successful, sometimes as early as 16 weeks. These breakthroughs can help correct or ameliorate certain fetal conditions. So not only can 20-week-old babies survive outside the womb, but they also can undergo successful surgery inside the womb. And it’s common practice in these surgeries to administer anesthesia not just to the mother, but specifically to the baby in utero, to prevent both from feeling pain.
In other words, medical science increasingly confirms the common experience of parents and the religious and ethical belief of the ages: an unborn baby is just as much a person as you, as I, as each of us—only more innocent, more helpless, and therefore even more deserving of protection. Especially by the halfway point of a pregnancy, they feel pain and they seek life.
So it’s particularly heartbreaking that such babies are killed in our country. By some estimates, 10,000 babies 20 weeks or older are aborted each year. By this point, most Americans have seen the gruesome videos of Planned Parenthood officials callously discussing the dismemberment of babies to harvest and sell their organs. They cavalierly talk about using “less crunchy” procedures to preserve the organs, subjecting the baby to excruciating pain and death for profit.
This is a sad reality in America today. Just two miles from where I stand—just five blocks from the White House—is an abortionist who advertises on his website for abortions without restrictions up to 26 weeks—right up to the third trimester—far past the medically accepted point of viability. Who knows how many other abortionists do the same, just more discreetly?
It’s past time to end this barbaric practice and protect these innocent babies. I therefore strongly support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and urge my fellow senators to do the same. This legislation would stop the abortion of babies 20 weeks or older, with certain reasonable and widely supported exceptions.
I understand that abortion provokes strong feelings on both sides of the question. I acknowledge that reasonable people of good will disagree about the wisdom and morality of early-first-term abortions. But I’m mystified as to why we cannot come together and agree to protect babies who feel pain and who can survive outside the womb.
And it’s not just I and large majorities of the American people who feel this way; the civilized world overwhelmingly rejects this kind of late-term abortion. Only seven countries allow elective abortion after 20 weeks, including communist dictatorships like China and North Korea, which also inflict forced abortion and sterilization on their people.
By contrast, countries to our left, like France, and Germany heavily restrict or ban abortion after the first trimester. So does Belgium, home of the European Union. Even Russia bans elective abortion after the first trimester. Our abortion policy is one case where we should be ashamed of our international isolation and follow Europe’s lead in protecting innocent life.
In our country, founded as it is on the equal rights of mankind and the unalienable right of life, it’s deeply disappointing that the laws don’t protect those most innocent lives among us, particularly when medical science now has the ability to do so. These scientific advances, like life itself, are miracles. These days, it may some times seem like a miracle when a law passes around here. If that is the case, as a father, an American and a lawmaker, I think a miracle is called for now if it ever was.