Commentary: Delaware legislature failed to act on abortion laws

I delivered the following speech in the Senate chambers at the start of the last day of session after asking for special privilege from the floor.

Thank you Madam President,

And thank you members of the Senate for your attention. We sometimes disagree on the issues, but my experience has been that agree or disagree, my colleagues in the Senate have shown me respect for the airing of my opinions.

I hope you feel that I also show you the respect you deserve as elected officials of our great state.

The best laws not only protect our citizens, but inspire positive action.

I feel progress is being made in regards to some very important issues, including early education, drug prevention programs, second chances for those who are longing to improve their lives, and the responsible use of tax dollars through budget smoothing, to name a few.

But please allow me to remind you that people who have the best of intentions can disagree. At times of disagreement, we demonstrate responsible leadership qualities by thoughtful consideration of the facts.

Where there are very opposing points of view, there is still that desire to do what is right, to make wise choices, to serve with honor.

This is my desire as I speak today.

Bryant Richardson

A photo taken on Aug. 19, 1999 shows an unborn baby at 21 weeks gestation grasping the finger of surgeon Joseph Bruner.

The baby, Samuel Alexander Armas, was diagnosed with spina bifida.

Samuel’s mother, Julie Armas, an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta, had heard of Dr. Bruner’s success operating on babies in utero at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

During the procedure, the doctor removed the uterus via C-section and made a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the child reached through the incision and firmly grasped Dr. Bruner’s finger.

The photograph, titled the “Hand of Hope,” was first published on Sept. 7, 1999 in the USA Today.

The operation on young Samuel was successful and on Dec. 2, 1999, he was born in perfect health. Samuel is now 19 years old.

Dr. Bruner said in an interview that this was the most emotional moment of his life and that for an instant he was not able to move.

When we think about the gift of life, should not our purpose be to encourage developments in the protection of this life?

What has happened to our thinking?

We will end the first half of the 150th General Assembly doing nothing to protect the most innocent and most vulnerable among us.

And we will end the first half of the 150th General Assembly with the reality that women are being hurt and cannot turn back to the abortion providers for help. They do not provide this service.

Senate Bill 21 would end the horrific practice of killing an unborn child close to viability through dismemberment or poisoning.

The United States is one of only seven nations to allow the outrageously cruel act of tearing apart a child inside a mother’s womb so late in a pregnancy.

I will note here that at 21 weeks of gestation, anesthesia was given to Samuel Alexander Armas, the baby in the famous “Hand of Hope” photograph.

And I will note also that Senate Bill 3, passed and signed into law in the 149th General Assembly, gives personhood to the unborn at 20 weeks’ gestation. This was a wonderful achievement in recognizing the value of life.

Senate Bill 19, the Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act, in Delaware alone could save the lives of 10,000 babies over the next decade.

Studies show almost eight out of 10 mothers will choose birth over death after observing their babies in an ultrasound. I might add that this does not interfere with a woman’s right to choose, but importantly allows a woman to make an informed choice before making an irreversible life and death decision.

Why, I ask members of the Senate, cannot SB 19 that gives women an informed choice, and SB 21 that ends the torturous deaths of children, receive a fair hearing in the full Senate?

I respect the opinions of my colleagues and have always been willing to listen to and learn from their opinions.

I appreciate that leadership allows a bill to be heard in a committee hearing 12 days after introduction.

However, I do have a concern about the amount of time allocated to discuss Senate Bills 19 and 21.

Two hours were given to discuss those bills. The actual time was less, because the venue was moved from the Senate Hearing Room to the Senate Chamber because of the number of people who showed up to testify.

For Senate Bill 19, the Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act there was 15 minutes allotted for testimony. There were 49 signed up to testify in favor of the bill and 15 against. The majority of those against were from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. I was given 30 seconds to summarize.

I ask you, is the life of the unborn of so little consequence that we would give so little time for its discussion? What is wrong with taking time for calm and reasonable discussions, instead of a rush to judgment?

Not allowing debate is an absolute form of censorship. This is not healthy for a nation’s people who understand the importance of the free exchange of ideas.

Even when the focus is only on the mothers, I believe we are not providing justice when we know there are negative consequences to their health, physical and emotional.

However, we must recognize that there is more than one life to weigh in the balance regarding the abortion issue. There is a child.

May I remind you once more of baby Samuel Alexander Armas and his little hand wrapped around the surgeon’s finger?

Thank you for allowing me time to express my thoughts.

Sen. Bryant L. Richardson is a Republican serving the 21st District, which covers the Seaford and Laurel areas.

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