Is Russ Feingold feeling a bit of deja vu this week? Back in 1996, you’ll recall, during a colloquy on the senate floor with Rick Santorum, our sainted former senator famously failed to distinguish between an abortion and the killing of a just-born baby.
Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum asked Democrats Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey this: Suppose during an attempted partial-birth abortion the infant, instead of being just almost delivered, with only a few inches of skull remaining in the birth canal, slips entirely out of the canal. Is killing the born baby still a "choice"? Feingold and Lautenberg said it was still a matter between a mother and her abortionist. (C-SPAN captured this exchange. The Congressional Record was subsequently falsified.)
So, um, it is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I’m almost in disbelief," said Rep. Jim Boyd. "If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?"
"We believe that any decision that's made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician," said Planned Parenthood lobbyist Snow.
Rep. Daniel Davis then asked Snow, "What happens in a situation where a baby is alive, breathing on a table, moving. What do your physicians do at that point?"
"I do not have that information," Snow replied. "I am not a physician, I am not an abortion provider. So I do not have that information."
Maybe Snow should put in a call to Feingold. Because they not only have a lot in common… they also apparently have a lot to talk about.
Here is the full exchange that took place on the Senate floor on September 26, 1996:
Sen. Santorum: Will the Senator from Wisconsin yield for a question?
Sen. Feingold: I will.
Sen. Santorum: The Senator from Wisconsin says that this decision should be left up to the mother and the doctor, as if there is absolutely no limit that could be placed on what decision that they make with respect to that. And the Senator from California [Sen. Barbara Boxer] is going up to advise you of what my question is going to be, and I will ask it anyway. And my question is this: that if that baby were delivered breech style and everything was delivered except for the head, and for some reason that that baby's head would slip out -- that the baby was completely delivered -- would it then still be up to the doctor and the mother to decide whether to kill that baby?
Sen. Feingold: I would simply answer your question by saying under the Boxer amendment, the standard of saying it has to be a determination, by a doctor, of health of the mother, is a sufficient standard that would apply to that situation. And that would be an adequate standard.
Sen. Santorum: That doesn't answer the question. Let's assume that this procedure is being performed for the reason that you've stated, and the head is accidentally delivered. Would you allow the doctor to kill the baby?
Sen. Feingold: I am not the person to be answering that question. That is a question that should be answered by a doctor, and by the woman who receives advice from the doctor. And neither I, nor is the Senator from Pennsylvania, truly competent to answer those questions. That is why we should not be making those decisions here on the floor of the Senate.