U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) gave a well-reasoned, powerful speech in support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which, unfortunately, failed to reach cloture late Monday afternoon.
Here’s the transcript of his speech as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Madam President. As we consider this legislation to protect 20-week-old babies who feel pain, I want to ask my friends this in body to put aside whip counts and scorecards, politics and reelection, and let’s talk today just simply about beauty and about science.
We love beauty. Beauty calls us. Beauty inspires us. Beauty captivates us. It’s part of what makes us human, and it’s not surprising that there’s almost nothing more universal on this earth–almost nothing more beautiful–than our natural impulse to care for a little baby.
We all start in the same place: vulnerable and dependent in every way. We all ooh and aah over sonogram pictures of our children, our grandchildren, our nieces, our nephews–even sonogram pictures from a stranger on a bus or plane. We all ooh and aah in the same way.
When we look at those pictures, we love. We love. We don’t have to be taught this. You don’t have to be conditioned to love. You don’t have to be conditioned to know that we should help the vulnerable. This isn’t because of economics. This isn’t because of politics. We love, because they’re babies. You don’t need anyone to explain this to you. Every one of us have experienced this when you’ve seen the sonogram pictures.
But we should note that this love is not just a feeling. It’s also built on and backed up by facts. As we consider whether these unborn babies, having been carried by their mamas for almost five months, as we consider whether they deserve legal protection, whether they deserve our protection, we should think, too, about the science and what is becoming clearer year by year and month by month.
I want to associate myself with the comments of the senator from Montana who preceded me. A huge part of why the millennials are becoming more pro-life than the two generations older than they are is because they’re seeing these sonogram images and it’s changing them–year by year and month by month. I’ve been on the floor for about 45 minutes today and I’ve heard a whole bunch of claims about polling and facts on the floor today that just aren’t true. I’m not here to argue this case and argue how we should vote on this legislation because of polls. I’m here because we should all love babies. That’s why we should be doing this. But just at the level of polling, there have been claims on the floor today that are just absolutely not true. Younger people are becoming more pro-life, as the gentleman from Montana said, year over year right now, and it’s because of the prevalence and the pervasiveness of sonogram technology. And this movement, the pro-life movement, is ascendant and it’s because people are grappling with science, and they’re grappling with images, and they’re grappling with the reality of that intrinsic feeling we have to love.
We can and we should appeal to ethics. We can and we should discuss too human dignity. We should reaffirm intrinsic value. But for now, for this conversation today, we could limit ourselves just to scientific facts. As we consider those facts, I want to respectfully ask my colleagues in this chamber today, where will we draw the line?
No one seriously disputes that that little girl in that image is alive. No one seriously disputes that that little girl is a human being. No one. There’s no one in this chamber and there’s no one outside this chamber who’s ever looked at that sonogram image that’s going to come to this floor and say, “You know the debate I want to have? I want to say that that baby is not alive and she’s not a human.”
Somebody should be come to the floor and make that case who’s going to vote NO on the legislation today. Say that that’s not a life and that that’s not a human. Because it’s not true and no one believes it.
The science is clear. We all know and understand that that little baby in that sonogram image is a unique and separate being. We know that she has unique D.N.A. from her mother and she has D.N.A. that’s unique from her father. And the baby apps are now telling new moms and dads-to-be that that baby–or when that baby–is a size of a sesame seed, and then a blueberry, and then an apple. And with the help of these sonograms, we’re now catching pictures of her sucking her thumb, flexing her arms and legs, yawning, stretching, making faces. And here’s what’s really new, the last couple of years, you’re catching pictures and images of her responding to voices, voices that are familiar of other human beings, that she’s already in community with, people who are called to love her.
As early as 20 weeks post-fertilization, which is about halfway through the pregnancy, scientists and our doctors now tell that is this unborn baby can feel pain. In fact, it’s become routine procedure of late for us to give unborn and premature infants anesthesia for their fetal surgeries. Why? This is new. We didn’t used to do this. Why do we do it? It’s because we have new scientific evidence that they feel pain. It turns out that babies that are 20-weeks along in gestation are pain-capable inside mom’s uterus. As Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand testified before the congress, “the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20-weeks gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by the fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by termed newborns.” Not only can she feel pain, not only do the images show us that she recoils from being poked or prodded, advances in modern medicine are now helping babies born at 22-weeks and at 21-weeks and 20-weeks post fertilization survive outside the womb.
The pain that those babies feel outside the womb is supporting the evidence that those babies also feel pain inside the womb, which leads me to ask my friends, have our hearts grown cold to truth? Have we become indifferent to questioning our previously held convictions? Are we indifferent to what the science is clearly showing us? Well, this body, captive to abortion zealot activists, might be ignoring the sonograms. That might be what’s happening in this body today.
But the American people are actually listening to the science and the sonograms. Contrary to those bizarre claims that were made on the floor a couple times over the last hour, a hefty majority — it is not close — of Americans support this legislation, including a supermajority of women, including most young people, including most independents, and now ticking up just shy of half of all Democrats. This should not be a partisan issue, and in the future, it won’t. Because more and more people are looking at these images and it’s not going to be a partisan issue. It’s going to be a bipartisan issue that you have to tell the truth that those pictures are pictures of babies and they’re alive and they deserve our protection.
But have our hearts in this body grown cold to the truth? We should also not forget the mothers because the pro-life message is about being both pro-baby and pro-mother. Late-term abortions are actually not safe, even for the mother. Women seeking abortion after 20 weeks are 35 times more likely to die from an abortion than when done in the first trimester — 35 times more likely.
The United States is one of only seven countries on Earth that allows elective abortion after 20 weeks and we’re actually tied with three other countries as having the most permissive abortion regime on Earth. You know who our peers are? North Korea and China — that’s who our peers are.
And if our rhetoric about human rights should mean anything, it should mean we don’t want to be on a human rights worst list with North Korea and China. That’s where we are today. And there are a whole bunch of reasonable people who are going to argue against this legislation. They’re reasonable in other ways in life and they want to make an argument about the really complicated issues about abortion in the first trimester and there are a lot of reasonable people that can have a reasonable debate about that. When you listen to the arguments being made today, they’re not actually grappling with today’s legislation. They’re talking about abortion in general but nobody is telling us why are we tied with China and North Korea as having the most permissive abortion regime on Earth?
My friends, beauty and compassion can stir our hearts, and science and facts should still confirm the truth. This legislation, the actual legislation we’re voting on today, is pro-baby, it’s pro-mom, and it’s pro-science. And these little babies who are capable of feeling pain, they deserve legal protection. They deserve our protection. And I invite — I beg my colleagues to join in that conviction and to vote yes on this legislation today.
Thank you, Madam President.
Watch his remarks below: