The partial-birth abortion ban is back and a vote is scheduled for Thursday in the Senate. Congress approved the ban in 1996 and 1998, but our erstwhile president vetoed the ban. Both times the ban was passed, politicians from each party supported it. This should come as no surprise. For both sides, it’s a chance to distance themselves from infanticide. The Born-Alive Infant Protection Act passed for the same reason. We weren’t talking about a “clump of cells” or even a woman’s difficult situation. Front and center, we know it’s a baby who’s being born and could either have her brains sucked out or be wrapped in swaddling clothes and taken to the nursery.
Still, Senators Kennedy, Feinstein, and their ilk have spent the past few days saying that now is not the time to discuss PBA, as if we were all sitting at a family dinner table where they’re the parents and we’re the unruly children.
If that’s etiquette, Senator Norm Coleman (R., Minn.) gloriously ignored it when he brought up PBA during a campaign debate last November with former Vice President Walter Mondale. Mondale wanted us to see that he was a bulldog, that he could fight even though he’s much older than he used to be. Coleman wanted to communicate respect and he did. He didn’t fault Mondale for his age or make any personal attacks.
Mondale was the first to bring up abortion while discussing the blocking of judicial nominees (also relevant this week as the judicial-nominations stalemate continues). Coleman answered respectfully. The moment for his coup de grace had not yet arrived. He waited.
When Mondale brought up special interests, Coleman suggested that they find common ground in an area we once considered a political no-man’s land: abortion.
Coleman probed, “You raised the question about abortion. Even on that issue, Mr. Vice President, you think there’s common ground to be found? You think, for instance, most Minnesotans would believe that partial-birth abortion is a wrong thing, and even if we have different positions on that issue, we can find common ground? Don’t you think that on the idea that parents should have a right to know in that situation? I have a 12-year-old girl. She had her ears pierced a couple of weeks ago, and they called me. Don’t you think even on that difficult issue, that we should find common ground? I do.”
Mondale fought back, but then he admitted, “I’m opposed to late-term abortions.” With this concession, Coleman asked him again about parental consent. Mondale had to agree. Any reasonable person would.
In a last-ditch effort to save himself, Mondale accused Coleman of being an “arbitrary right-to-lifer,” as if being pro-life were akin to the Coke vs. Pepsi debate.
Big mistake, Mr. Mondale.
Coleman used his personal experience to close: “My wife and I have had two children who were born, first a son and the last a daughter. They died at very young ages. I have a deep and profound respect for the value of life; it’s not arbitrary.”
Mondale, totally defeated, could only respond, “I know that life should be sacred.”
For Coleman, the debate was never about abortion. It was about a procedure that former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D., N.Y.) called “infanticide.” It was about a parent being involved in a major life decision that a child is about to make. It was about the sacredness of human life which he had experienced in his own family. Even a staunch pro-choice Democrat like Mondale had to concede this.
Supporting a PBA ban is a win for either side of the abortion debate. For pro-lifers, it keeps abortion from progressing towards full-blown infanticide. For abortion supporters, it keeps them from looking like Peter Singer who would give parents the right to kill their children 30 days after they’d been born.
Banning PBA won’t endanger the lives of women. A women who faces a pregnancy that has become critical needs only to deliver the child, not to kill it. PBA usually involves a breech delivery (feet first) which would be more harmful to a woman than a normal delivery or a caesarean section.
A PBA ban won’t eliminate abortion. It will simply eliminate a particularly gruesome abortion procedure that’s currently used thousands of times each year in the United States. It will make things harder for the abortionist because he’ll have to employ another form of abortion, like dilation and evacuation, which will be more time consuming. So he’ll have to spend more time and effort to make his money.
Which brings us to why some abortion supporters won’t support the ban. The ban would make their billion-dollar a year industry a little less lucrative and begin to impose some regulations on a largely unregulated business.
Those in Congress who take seriously the job of representing their constituents will vote in favor of the ban because doing so will represent the sense of the people. 70 percent of them favor a PBA ban according to a January USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll.
So when would be an appropriate time to discuss PBA? Actually, we’ve passed the time for discussion. It’s time for action. It’s time for a ban.
If we were to describe PBA as a procedure done to puppies, support among the senators would increase dramatically and Senators Feinstein and Kennedy might move out of the way. The unborn child, however, has become so political that it’s lost its face. Puppies, on the other hand, still have theirs.
The PBA ban, like the Born-Alive Act, legally puts a face on the unborn child and that makes some politicians squirm. Abortion has no face. Babies do.
— Pia de Solenni is a fellow at the Center for Human Life and Bioethics of the Family Research Council.