Santorum, Boxer exchange defined partial-birth debate

WASHINGTON (BP)--In October 1999, pro-life Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and pro-choice Sen. Barbara Boxer of California engaged in a passionate exchange about partial-birth abortion on the Senate floor. Nearly immediately, the debate began making the rounds among pro-lifers, who said it showed the indefensibility of Boxer's pro-choice position.

Santorum, who had control of the floor, started the exchange by asking Boxer a series of questions about abortion. She eventually refused to answer any more of his questions. Below is a transcript of the exchange from the Congressional Record:

SANTORUM: Do you agree any child who is born has the right to life, is protected by the Constitution once that child is born?

BOXER: I agree with the Roe v. Wade decision, and what you are doing goes against it and will harm the women of this country. And I will address that when I get the floor.

SANTORUM: But I would like to ask you this question -- you agree, once the child is born, separated from the mother, that that child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed? Do you agree with that?

BOXER: I would make this statement, that this Constitution as it currently is -- some want to amend it to say life begins at conception. I think when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born -- and there is no such thing as partial-birth -- the baby belongs to your family and has the rights. But I am not willing to amend the Constitution to say that a fetus is a person, which I know you would. But we will get to that later. I know my colleague is engaging me in a colloquy on his time. I appreciate it. I will answer these questions. I think what my friend is doing, by asking me these questions, is off point. My friend wants to tell the doctors in this country what to do. My friend from Pennsylvania says they are rogue doctors. The AMA [American Medical Association] will tell you they no longer support the bill. The American Nurses don’t support the bill. The obstetricians and gynecologists don’t support the bill. So my friend can ask me my philosophy all day; on my own time I will talk about it.

SANTORUM: If I may reclaim my time, first of all, the AMA still believes this is bad medicine. They do not support the criminal penalties provisions in this bill, but they still believe -- I think you know that to be the case -- this procedure is not medically necessary, and they stand by that statement. I ask the senator from California, again, you believe -- you said "once the baby comes home." Obviously, you don’t mean they have to take the baby out of the hospital for it to be protected by the Constitution. Once the baby is separated from the mother, you would agree -- completely separated from the mother -- you would agree that baby is entitled to constitutional protection?

BOXER: I will tell you why I don’t want to engage in this. You had the same conversation with a colleague of mine, and I never saw such a twisting of his remarks.

SANTORUM: Let me be clear, then. Let’s try to be clear.

BOXER: I am going to be clear when I get the floor. What you are trying to do is take away the rights of women and their families and their doctors to have a procedure. And now you are trying to turn the question into, When does life begin? I will talk about that on my own time.

SANTORUM: If I may reclaim the time?

THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Sen. Jim Bunning, Ky.): The senator from Pennsylvania has the floor.

SANTORUM: What I am trying to do is get an answer from the senator from California as to where you would draw the line because that really is the important part of this debate.

BOXER: I will repeat. I will repeat, the senator has asked me a question ...

THE PRESIDING OFFICER: The senator from Pennsylvania has the floor.

BOXER: I am answering the question I have been posed by the senator, and the answer to the question is, I stand by Roe v. Wade. I stand by it. I hope we have a chance to vote on it. It is very clear -- Roe v. Wade. That is what I stand by; my friend doesn’t.

SANTORUM: Are you suggesting Roe v. Wade covered the issue of a baby in the process of being born?

BOXER: I am saying what Roe v. Wade says is, in the early stages of a pregnancy, a woman has the right to choose; in the later stages, the states have the right -- yes -- to come in and restrict. I support those restrictions, as long as two things happen: They respect the life of the mother and the health of the mother.

SANTORUM: I understand that.

BOXER: That is where I stand. No matter how you try to twist it, that is where I stand.

SANTORUM: I say to the senator from California, I am not twisting anything. I am simply asking a very straightforward question. There is no hidden question here. The question is ...

BOXER: I will answer it again.

SANTORUM: Once the baby is born, is completely separated from the mother, you will support that that baby has, in fact, the right to life and cannot be killed? You accept that; right?

BOXER: I don’t believe in killing any human being. That is absolutely correct. Nor do you, I am sure.

SANTORUM: So you would accept the fact that once the baby is separated from the mother, that baby cannot be killed?

BOXER: I support the right -- and I will repeat this, again, because I saw you ask the same question to another senator.

SANTORUM: All the senator has to do is give me a straight answer.

BOXER: Define "separation." You answer that question.

SANTORUM: Let’s define that. Let’s say the baby is completely separated; in other words, no part of the baby is inside the mother.

BOXER: You mean the baby has been birthed and is now in the mother’s arms? It is a human being? It takes a second, it takes a minute ...

SANTORUM: Say it is in the obstetrician’s hands.

BOXER: I had two babies, and within seconds of them being born ...

SANTORUM: We had six.

BOXER: You didn’t have any.

SANTORUM: My wife and I did. We do things together in my family.

BOXER: Your wife gave birth. I gave birth. I can tell you, I know when the baby was born.

SANTORUM: Good. All I am asking you is, once the baby leaves the mother’s birth canal and is through the vaginal orifice and is in the hands of the obstetrician, you would agree you cannot then abort the baby?

BOXER: I would say when the baby is born, the baby is born and would then have every right of every other human being living in this country, and I don’t know why this would even be a question.

SANTORUM: Because we are talking about a situation here where the baby is almost born. So I ask the question of the senator from California, if the baby was born except for the baby’s foot, if the baby’s foot was inside the mother but the rest of the baby was outside, could that baby be killed?

BOXER: The baby is born when the baby is born.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN. Will the senator yield?

BOXER: That is the answer to the question.

SANTORUM: I am asking for you to define for me what that is.

BOXER: I can’t believe the senator from Pennsylvania has a question with it. I have never been troubled by this question. You give birth to a baby. The baby is there, and it is born, and that is my answer to the question.

SANTORUM: What we are talking about here with partial birth, as the senator from California knows, is the baby is in the process of being born --

BOXER: In the process of being born. This is why this conversation makes no sense, because to me it is obvious when a baby is born; to you it isn’t obvious.

SANTORUM: Maybe you can make it obvious to me. What you are suggesting is if the baby’s foot is still inside of the mother, that baby can then still be killed.

BOXER: I am not suggesting that.

SANTORUM: I am asking.

BOXER: I am absolutely not suggesting that. You asked me a question, in essence, when the baby is born.

SANTORUM: I am asking you again. Can you answer that?

BOXER: I will answer the question when the baby is born. The baby is born when the baby is outside the mother’s body. The baby is born.

SANTORUM: I am not going to put words in your mouth ...

BOXER: I hope not.

SANTORUM: But, again, what you are suggesting is if the baby’s toe is inside the mother, you can, in fact, kill that baby.

BOXER: Absolutely not.

SANTORUM: OK. So if the baby’s toe is in, you can’t kill the baby. How

about if the baby’s foot is in?

BOXER: You are the one who is making these statements.

SANTORUM: We are trying to draw a line here.

BOXER: I am not answering these questions.


Compiled by Michael Foust

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