In the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court presumed that the right of a woman's privacy trumped the right to life for the unborn. And by doing so, they etched deep clefts into the political landscape of our nation. In 2003, however, a shift occurred in the national abortion debate. Congress passed a law outlawing a particular form of abortion called "partial-birth abortion". This procedure, as depicted in the photo to the right, is performed by using a scissors to puncture a hole in the base of the baby's head. The medical practitioner then uses a suctioning unit to vacuum out the brains until the skull collapses making it easy to remove and discard. Mind you that all of this occurs when the baby is alive in the vaginal canal.
In the late 90s, polling data showed that a slight majority of Americans wanted to ban partial birth abortion. By 2003, however, public opinion began to change. Gallup's polling data showed that 70% of adults had come to favor the ban while only 25% had opposed it. And in 2007 (the latest poll to my knowledge), Pew Research Center showed that 75% of people wanted the procedure to be illegal. The oppositional trend against the ban can be properly explained by an gradual increase in public awareness. The more partial birth abortion was openly debated, the more Americans began to oppose the brutal procedure.
Tom Barrett voted against a partial-birth abortion ban as early as 1995. The legislation (HR 1833) passed both houses of Congress, but it was vetoed by President Bill Clinton because he claimed it did not contain an exception clause for the "life and health" of the mother.
This is not entirely accurate. The bill contained an exception clause that legally excused the procedure when the mother's life was at risk, but Clinton wanted language that included the "health" of the mother as well. Republicans refused to add the language because the definition of "health" is broad enough to include a wide variety of medical conditions that do not justify the procedure.
In 1997, Barrett flip-flopped and voted for the ban on partial birth abortion (HR 1122). Even though he changed positions on the vote, President Clinton vetoed the bill again.
In 2000, Barrett again voted for the ban on partial-birth abortion (HR 3660), which passed the House, but stalled in the Senate and never made it to Clinton's desk.
In 2001, Barrett voted against an amendment to HR 1646 that would have restricted U.S. funds providing abortion services to foreign lands. The vote shows Barrett is willing to spend taxpayer money on abortions outside the U.S.
In 2002, Barrett flip-flopped a second time by voting against the ban on partial-birth abortion (HR 4965), which passed the House, but again stalled in the Senate. It is unknown why Barrett changed his vote twice on partial-birth abortion, but is perhaps a valid question for Scott Walker to ask during the campaign season.
The strength of the left in arguing for abortion rights have always been based upon on exceptional examples because they are emotive. For instance, they don't just argue that women should have abortions on the basis of a woman's choice over her body, but on the basis of exceptional cases of rape or incest.
Those who oppose abortion have discovered this tactic as well. They show pictures of exceptional abortions that depict the bloody carcasses of babies that were dismembered and fully decapitated by doctors. The imagery is so raw and gory that it makes one wonder just how those doctors sleep at night.
Caught in the middle of this debate is self-professed Roman Catholic, Tom Barrett. He has a voting record in Congress that supported spending tax dollars on abortion in foreign countries and opposing a ban on partial birth abortion. First, it's against Catholic teaching to promote or practice abortion. It's what the Catholic Church has referred to as an "intrinsic evil". Barrett would be wise to avoid justifying his votes in Congress because the last thing he needs is an Arch-Bishop refusing to give him communion.
The second criticism is that Barrett's pro-choice votes weren't reflective of his constituents. Polling data in 2003 showed that 70% of Americans disagreed with his stance. Also, in Milwaukee, 23% of residents are "church-going" Roman Catholics. Put these two demographics together, and you have a very good reason not to vote against the partial birth abortion ban.