Lankford: “What’s your line? When is a life worth protecting?”
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s speech.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today addressed the Senate in disappointment after the Senate failed to reach 60 votes on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Lankford spoke on the Senate floor in 2018 to advocate for the Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act and in 2019 to speak on infanticide and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
I rise to be to be able to have a dialogue. Let me start it this way. My brother and I did not always agree on everything. I know that may be shocking that two brothers didn’t get along on everything. In fact, growing up I distinctly remember the day that we reached epic levels and we got masking tape out in our room and put a line down the floor in our room that ran from one wall across the other wall. We had an old-school stereo record player in our room. The line ran up the record player so that he had on one side the tuning knob and I had on the other side the volume knob and we had to reach a detente to listen to it. If he had a station I didn’t like, I could turn the volume down. The line ran through his closet with his clothes and my clothes on it and we had a clear line of separation that you could not cross the line. The rules were very clear. And for whatever reason our mom put up with it for quite a while as we had the don’t cross the line into my side kind of moment.
It’s interesting today in the Senate was in some ways a line drawing moment, not draw a line, but to try to figure out where are our lines? Where are our boundaries on an issue that Americans talk about all the time in many ways but always get nervous in that dialogue? And it’s the issue about when is a child a child? We have this weird dialogue as a nation because we have a great passion for children. We spend a tremendous amount of money personally as our families and in this our communities and nonprofits and federal taxpayer dollars to be able to walk alongside children to be able to do everything we can to be able to protect the lives of those children. We have some in this body that have proposed federal taxpayer dollars for children in their very first days of life to have child care that’s available for them but literally three days before that, they also proposed federal tax dollars for abortion to be able to take that life. And it just begs the question, where is your line on life? What is that moment?
Now, for me, I go with the science. It’s conception. That’s a dividing cell that has DNA. That is different from the mom and different than the dad. That dividing cell is a uniquely different person. Every science textbook, every medical textbook that you look at would identify that DNA is different from any other DNA. In the world. That is a different person. As that cell grows and divides, and as that child grows and divides, whether they are 50 years old or days old still in the womb, the DNA. Is the same. All the building blocks are in that child from its earliest days. Others will look at it and ask the question, like the Supreme Court did in 1973 when they ruled on Roe v. Wade, they ruled on the issue of viability. That’s when the Supreme Court said in 1973 that states can engage and try to make some laws dealing with abortion is based around this issue of viability.
Viability in 1973 is very different than it is now. We have many children that are born at 21, 22, 23, 24 weeks gestation that are prematurely delivered, spend months in a NICU facility and thrive as adults. That viability question is different now than it was in 1973. We also know more about the science now than we knew at that time as well. We know that a child, some would say on the science side of it, as early as 12 weeks old of development still in the womb can feel and experience pain. Certainly by 20 weeks, 21, 22 weeks they have a developed brain, they have a developed nervous system. The system of experiencing pain is all in place. That child, if anything happens to that child, will experience the pain and the effects of that. The New York times had a really interesting article in October of 2017 talking about a young man, Charlie Royer, that when he was 24 weeks development in the womb, the parents made a very difficult decision to have a surgery in utero.
It’s spina bifida. The child would be paralyzed. The New York Times writes about how they did the intricate surgery that happened at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, basically delivering the child, doing surgery on that child, reinserting the uterus and the child back into the mom into the womb, and then stayed all the way until full gestation and was delivered. Charlie is apparently doing very, very well. It was a remarkable surgery, but during that surgery, they made sure that they helped that child and gave him additional medications to be able to protect him from pain because they were doing surgery on someone that felt the effects of the surgery at 24 weeks.
Today we had a vote in the Senate to be able to ask senators, ‘If you don’t agree with me on this, that the line should be conception to consider that child a child at conception, would you consider that child a child at when they can experience pain?’ They have a beating heart, they have a functioning nervous system, they have ten fingers, ten toes. This is not a tissue we’re talking about. This is what a child looks like in the womb at 20 to 22 weeks. That’s a child. So the question is, is your line when that child has a beating heart, has a functioning nervous system, can experience pain, is that your line? We had that vote today, and unfortunately this Senate body said no. The line is not at conception and the line is not even when they look like this and can experience pain. That bill was voted down.
There are only four countries in the world that allow abortion on demand at any time. Four countries left in the world that still abort children that look like this that experience pain that are in late term. It is the United States, North Korea, China, and Vietnam. That is all that is left in the world that looks at this and says that’s just tissue, that’s not really a baby. This senate voted again today tomorrow affirm that same club that we’re in with China, North Korea, and Vietnam. That’s not a club I want our nation to be in. They are some of the worst human rights violators in the world, and they don’t recognize the value and the dignity of life. We do. Or at least I thought we did. But that’s not where our line is apparently.
So, today we took another vote in the Senate, and it was a very clear line as well to say, ‘Okay, if your line is not at conception and if it’s not when the child can experience pain and it’s not a late-term abortion, when the child is actually viable? Maybe your line is actually when they are delivered, when they are fully out of the womb.’ So we took a vote on a bill called the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. It’s a very straightforward bill. It’s not about abortion at all. It is about a child that’s fully delivered because in medical practice there are times when there’s a late-term abortion that in the procedure itself to actually conduct the abortion instead of the child being aborted and killed in the womb, it is a spontaneous birth that actually occurs and the child is actually fully delivered. Now the intent was to destroy the child in the womb, but that’s not what happened. What happened instead in a small percentage of abortions is that child is actually delivered. Now the question is: the child’s no longer in the womb, the child is literally fully delivered and is crying on the table in front of you, what do you do? And so we asked the question of this body, ’Where is your line? Is your line at delivery even if the attempt was originally abortion that didn’t occur, is your line at delivery?’ Unfortunately this body voted no.
We could not get 60 senators of 100 to say even if a child is fully delivered outside the womb, crying on the table, that’s a child. That is a frightening statement about where we are in our culture. Now, I have had all kinds of folks say ‘Well, this is not about infanticide. Infanticide’s already illegal.” I was like, yes, that’s true. In 2002, there was unanimous support in this body in the Senate to be able to pass a bill saying that if this child is delivered, that would be infanticide. The problem was it left no consequences at all and allows what still happens today. That is, a child that’s fully delivered, there are no consequences for allowing them to die on the table. Kermit Gosnell a couple of years ago, was fully delivering children in his abortion clinic. He would fully deliver them, and then he would take scissors, turn the child over, and snip their spinal cord to kill them. He is in prison right now for carrying out that act because that was considered infanticide. But what is still legal is allowing the child to just lay there on the table until they slowly die.
Jill Stanek, a nurse that has practiced for years in Illinois, gave testimony in a hearing not long ago and has testified multiple times about what’s going on in some of these abortion facilities and what happens when a child is fully delivered and they’re still alive. In her experience, what she has watched before, she has noticed that children will live outside the womb—these are viable children, laying on the table, or in her particular hospital, they literally took the child to a linen closet and closed the door and left them there. They would live somewhere between an hour, some children as long as eight hours, just waiting to die.
Ladies and gentlemen, in ancient times, that was called exposure. When you would take a child and set them outside to die without medical care. Our vote today was if a child is fully delivered, should they get medical care or should we just allow medical facilities to just back off and allow them to slowly die? And today this senate could not get 60 votes to say we should at least give medical care to that child instead of allowing them to slowly die on the table on their own. A child literally crying, kicking their feet, but ignored. I would hope we’re better than that as a country. But apparently the line has still not been discovered for the value of a child. I am one that believes that a child has great value, a child has great worth, whether that child is a kindergartener or whether that child is in the womb. That child has value. And as a culture, we should stand for the value of every child.
I’m amazed, absolutely amazed when I think about 100 years ago, my wife, my mom, and my daughters could not vote. I just can’t even process that, that 100 years ago, my wife, my mom, my daughters were not allowed to vote in America. And I think what were we thinking as Americans that we did that? I’m amazed there was a time in America not that long ago that if you were Japanese descent, they rounded you up and put you in camps and held you as an American citizen just because you were of Japanese descent. I can’t even process that we did that as Americans. I cannot believe there was a time in America that we looked at African Americans and said that’s three-fifths of a man. I cannot even process that was in our law that we declared some human beings three-fifths of a person. I am so grateful that we no longer round people up because they’re Japanese descent, that we allow women to be able to vote, that we consider all people equal. I am so grateful that that time has passed, and I long for the day that I believe is coming that we as a nation will look back and say what were we thinking that we allowed children to live or die based on our convenience? And if a child was inconvenient, we just killed them or we set them on the table and allowed them to slowly die from exposure because they were inconvenient in the moment.
There will be a day we will look back on this season in American history and we will say: what were we thinking? That we considered some children more valuable than others, that we considered some lives worth living and some to just be thrown away. What’s your line? When is a life worth protecting? When is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness actually apply to you in America? I wish it was conception or at least when they can experience pain, or at least when they were fully born, but this body has not yet found the moment that we can agree that life is valuable, and I long for the day when we do.
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