Senator Lindsey Graham, who just announced his presidential campaign today, was the Keynote Speaker at the 2016 Campaign for Life Gala in Washington on April 16, 2015. The video of his speech, along with a transcript, are below.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)
Marlon Brando never looked better. That’s – (laughs, laughter). You’re shorter than I thought you would be, but. (Laughter.) Thank you for the kind introduction.
Anybody been to South Carolina? (Cheers, applause.) Yeah! Come back, spend money. (Laugh, laughter.)
Cindy, thank you for coming. She’s our national committeewoman, and we just – you represent us so well. (Applause.) Have you ever noticed that women are pretty much in charge of the things that really matter – (laughs, laughter) – in the Republican Party?
Joni Ernst really rocks, doesn’t she? She is really awesome. (Cheers, applause.)
Bottom line is, I took Strom Thurmond’s place. Anybody remember him? (Laughs, laughter.) He was really pro-life. (Laughs.) He stuck around to a hundred. (Laughs, laughter.) I remember him telling me one time, he said, Lindsey, life is short – which I felt was odd because he was 94 when he said that. (Laughter.) But proved to be true. He thought Susan B. Anthony was awesome. (Laughs.) I never met her. (Laughter.) So – (laughs).
Chris Smith. Thank you, my man. (Cheers, laughs, extended applause.) I’ve been hanging out with this guy since 1994, and you’re – I think you may be the best thing that ever came out of New Jersey. So that’s – (laughter, laughs) – good stuff.
Trent, thank you. Thank you for being a leader on this issue. (Applause.)
To all my House and Senate colleagues, thank you so much for showing up. Reince, Rience, whatever – (laughter) – I thought it was a car. (Laughs, laughter.) I thought, Reince Priebus is coming by; I said, I didn’t buy a car. (Laughter, laughs.) But you walk the walk, man. You really do. You represent us all well.
To the – to the M&M crowd, Marilyn and Marjorie – I’ll just call you Marjorie because I can’t say your last name – (laughter) – but these two ladies and the staff of the Susan B. Anthony organization are the most effective people I think I’ve seen on any single issue because they care so much. (Applause.) And you provide energy.
Ovide. Where’s Ovide from New Hampshire? All right. So – (laughter) – all right, Ovide, he says, we protect the unborn and women, because women who go through abortion, that’s pretty tough. So I’m going to remember that message.
Now, about the challenge at hand, we’ve had – 2014 was a really good cycle, right? (Cheers.) We want to thank the Democratic Party for screwing up so bad. (Laughs, laughter.) They couldn’t be here tonight. (Laughs, laughter.) But we’ll see you soon. (Laughter.)
Speaking of Democrats, Hillary’s on a listening tour – (laughter) – which is about as spontaneous and accessible as North Korea. (Laughs, laughter.) She met Obama’s intern. I’m sure that gave her a good view of America. (Laughter.)
So we’re going to have our challenges in 2016, but does – do elections matter? Let me tell you why it matters: We would never have this debate if Harry Reid were in charge of the Senate. (Applause.) To all of you who worked tirelessly to get our party in charge, I hope when this debate occurs – and it will – and when you watch it, I hope you’ll be pleased, because what you’ve done in the past, what you did to get us here in 2014, to make us the majority party, is going to – going to be a good thing because we’re going to talk about something you care about and America needs to hear about. So God bless you all. (Applause.)
Now, one of the highlights of my time in the Senate is when I made a unanimous consent request when Harry was in charge – and we’re going to miss Harry, by the way. (Laughs, laughter.) This is why I don’t exercise. You can get hurt. (Laughter, laughs.) So – (laughter) – so I told Marjorie, I said, I got an idea here. We really believe in our cause, don’t we? We’re not – we’re not ashamed of supporting the unborn. I mean, supporting an unborn child should not be a hard thing to do. Very proud of it. So I made a unanimous consent to bring up our pain-capable bill and the pro-choice’s number one piece of legislation. What was it, Frank? What do you call that bill?
MR. : Women’s Health Protection Act.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, the women’s whatever thing. (Laughter, laughs.) Which was the number one dream of the pro-choice community. And I said, let’s bring both of them up at the same time and let’s have a debate. I’m dying for that debate. They objected to bringing up their own bill. (Laughter.) So don’t let anyone tell you that you’re on the wrong side of this issue politically. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that. (Applause.)
And Chairman Priebus said we need to grow this party. All I can tell you is that, demographically, we need to do better. We’re down to 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. That makes like no sense to me. They’re hardworking, they’re entrepreneurial, they’re what?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Pro-life!
SEN. GRAHAM: Pro-life. What demographic in the country is the most pro-life? The Hispanic community. We need to repair some of the problems we’ve had. But to think that you need to abandon social conservatism to get to 270 electoral votes is nuts. You don’t. What we need is a relationship with the Hispanic community, who is filling up every church in the country. We need to like go into these churches and say, boy, do we have a deal for you. (Laughs, applause, cheers.)
Now, my partner from South Carolina is an African-American called Tim Scott. (Cheers, applause.) This guy really rocks. What group in America supports traditional marriage above all other groups?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: African-Americans.
SEN. GRAHAM: Y’all are very smart. (Laughter.)
So why would a party who wants to grow the vote not understand that the people you’re trying to solicit to be Republicans agree with you on social conservatism? To our friends in California – you know, we appreciate the money – (laughs, laughter) – New York, other places, don’t let that view of politics overshadow the obvious. Social conservatism is an asset, not a liability. (Applause, cheers.)
Now, the pain-capable bill is important for two reasons. Number one, it creates a new theory to protect the unborn child. The current theory that allows the government to regulate abortion is medical viability under Roe v. Wade. We’re trying to create a new legal theory, and this is very important. It sort of goes like this. At five months plus in the birthing process, the medical community is required by the standard of care to administer anesthesia to a child that they operate on. Why? Because the baby can feel pain. Is it much of a leap to allow politicians, elected officials, to say, well, if a doctor can’t operate on the baby because it feels pain, maybe we shouldn’t abort the baby? (Applause.)
There are seven countries who allow wholesale abortions at the 20-week period. I don’t want to be in that club. I am dying to have this debate. I am dying to talk about who we are in America, what makes us special as a country. I am dying to hear from the other side how this makes America a better place. Tell me how having wholesale abortions on demand at 20 weeks when a medical encyclopedia tells the parents to start singing to your baby at that period because they can understand who you are. You ought to get a(n) encyclopedia and look and read about what they say the unborn child can do at 20 weeks. Extremism, to me, is allowing wholesale abortions at that stage of development. It seems pretty extreme to allow abortion on demand when you also, at the same time, encourage parents to sing to their child.
Why are you pro-life? Why am I pro-life? All I can say is that we have one thing in common: We were all zygotes one time. Even Barack Obama, we have that in common with him. (Laughter.) The point is that life is a miracle, and if it’s nurtured we will all make it.
Sometimes people are born with special needs. And it goes back to, why does God allow these things to happen? I think it is a test for us. So I’m not pro-perfect life – because I’m in Congress. (Laughs, laughter.) That would disqualify me right there. (Laughter, laughs.)
I am pro-life because I think it makes my country a better place. I think America is at her best when she’s standing up for the least among us. And I look forward to this debate more than you will ever know.
And I’m going to give you a dose of reality. To our friends in the House, let’s get on with this thing. (Applause.) Trent, I know you’re trying to put the deal together. Time is a-wastin’. (Applause.) Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, as Reince would say. Let’s just get on with this thing. Send it over to the Senate, and if we have to tweak it we will. But we’re going to have one hell of a fight on the floor of the Senate.
I can’t promise you we’re going to get 60 votes this year, but I can promise you one day we will. Remember partial-birth abortion? It took over a decade. One day – and I don’t know when that will come, but if I can do the Strom Thurmond thing I’ll have 41 more years – (laughs) – left in the Senate – (laughter) – and I’m going to miss a lot of y’all, by the way. (Laughter.) I have the long view of everything. I don’t know when that day’s going to come, but I know when the clock started. It started in 2015.
The House has taken this up before and the Senate’s never had a chance to give our voice to this cause. Because of your hard work in 2014, we’re going to have a debate in the Senate that’s worthy of the body.
Some people tell me, you shouldn’t talk about abortion. In a democracy, if you can’t talk about life, what – why? If that’s not an issue worth discussing in a democracy, we’ve lost our way.
And I always say this to the people who tell me it’s none of the government’s business: When did you become you? At what point in the time – in time do you have a soul, if you believe you have one? Is that something worth talking about? If you know at what point in time that you become you, share it with me. If you – if you know at what point in time you can abort a baby that doesn’t have a soul, I would like to know that.
I’m not here to judge people who disagree with me. I’m here to stand up for what I believe. And I really do believe we’re on the right side of history. This debate is long overdue and it’s going to be a joy. It’s not going to be a burden. And I’m going to do it with a smile on my face and love in my heart, because it’s not offensive to me to be disagreed with. The only thing I’m going to do is ask the other side to do a little soul-searching and tell me why, in 2015, abortion on demand five months in the pregnancy makes us a better country.
Over time, we’re going to win this issue. It’s going to take years, and it will never happen without the right person in the White House. Do elections matter? 2014 is a good example of why it matters who’s in charge of the Senate. But this president would veto the bill if we could get it out of the Senate and the House. Do you agree? So the goal in 2016 is to keep our majorities and win the White House. Work for the presidency as if somebody else’s life depended upon it, because it does.
The voice for the unborn resides in our party almost exclusively, and for that I am sad. To our pro-life Democrats, you should have a very special place in heaven. (Applause.)
Carly, we’re going to have 29 people running in the Republican primary. (Laughter.) You know why? Because we all think we can beat Hillary. (Laughter, applause.) Whether I’m one of the 29 I don’t know yet. But no matter who wins our primary, the unborn is going to be in good hands. But if we fall short in 2016 after eight years of Barack Obama, when are we ever going to win? This man has been a disaster. (Applause, cheers.)
Hank, you said you can’t shoot everybody. (Laughter.) When it comes to terrorists, I’m willing to try. (Laughter, applause.) Our nation is under threat unlike any time that I can remember before 9/11. There are more radical Islamic groups with capability, safe haven, men, equipment and desire to destroy our way of life than any time I’ve ever seen since 9/11. Our friends in Israel under siege unlike any time really since its founding. So we’re a pro-life community tonight, but one thing I want you to remember, that the ability for us to gather here tonight and talk among ourselves about our cause and how to make it happen is a result of somebody else wearing a uniform willing to die to make sure this debate happens. (Applause.)
So to those who are willing to face the enemy of this nation, to those who give us the luxury of arguing among ourselves, to those who allow us through the electoral process to chart our own destiny, God bless you.
2016 will be here before you know it. This is the best opportunity I have seen in a very long time for the Republican Party to have it all. I hope that we seize the moment. And if God blesses us with the presidency, the House and the Senate, I hope we will use it without apology.
Over time, the pain-capable bill will become a reality. I want you to remember this night, I want you to remember 2015, because you’re going to be able to say one day I was there when this started. And the sooner this happens, the better off we all are.
The last thing I want to talk to you about is the consequence of losing in 2016. It means this bill dies yet again, and it means that three Supreme Court justices will be picked by the other side – maybe three, maybe two, maybe four. How many of you think judges matter? The best way to get a conservative judge on the bench is to elect a conservative president. The only way to get a conservative judge on the bench is to elect a conservative president.
The Susan B. Anthony organization has done more to help this cause, along with your pro-life partners, than anybody I can think of. When you came to me and you asked me to champion this cause, I was humbled. You could have picked anybody. You picked me. And I’m not going to let you down.
God bless you. (Applause.)