Rozenboom Gives Emotional Speech On The Senate Floor
Des Moines, Iowa – It’s been a week now since Senator Ken Rozenboom gave his point of priviledge speech on the Senate floor. As his fellow Republican Senator Brad Zaun said, “you could have heard a pin drop” during his speech.
Rozenboom said that several events happened in the week leading up to his speech, where he told the story about how his son Matt came to be in his family through adoption. The context of Sen. Zaun’s bill on public funding of abortion also played a role in Rozenboom’s decision to address his colleagues.
“First of all, I challenged them to listen to the voice of the unborn child, which I think is part of the equation. We always talk about the woman’s right to choose, and I acknowledge and I respect and I honor that, but there’s a second life,” that needs to be honored and respected as well, Rozenboom said.
During his speech, Rozenboom challenged people to, “stop asking who’s right and start asking what’s right,” and to quit using the abortion debate as a, “political football.” “I talked to them about – instead of following hardened lines of partisanship, let’s look for a new path. A path that leads us to a better place.”
The following is the entirety of Senator Ken Rozenboom’s speech from the floor of the Iowa Senate.
Today the advocates for foster and adoptive parents are here in the Capitol. With that in the background, I want to tell you the story of Dustin Jake. Dustin was conceived in late 1986 in Rochester, Minnesota by his mother, Christy, and a father who denied any responsibility. Christy’s circumstances were very difficult. She was 15 years old, drinking heavily, using every drug she could get her hands on, pregnant, with no father in the picture, and kicked out of her home. In the judgment of many, the best option would be to terminate the pregnancy, and she may well have been advised to do that. But she found another path.
Somehow, and I don’t know this piece of the story, Christy found her way from Rochester to a place called the Lighthouse in Kansas City. The Lighthouse is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide a home, pre-natal care, work skills training, counseling and delivery services to young, scared girls like Christy. They also place some of the children born there in adoptive families. About half of the children born at the Lighthouse go home with their mothers and the other half are placed in adoptive homes. None are aborted.
After Dustin Jake was born in August of 1987, Christy went back to Rochester with her new baby. After caring for Dustin for 3 months, she decided that she could not raise this child properly on her own. So she went back to the Lighthouse for about a month, where they counseled her in the agonizing process of giving Dustin Jake up for adoption. She chose an adoptive family, and gave up her parental rights.
The adopting parents were delighted with their baby son, finally having a second child they so desperately wanted to complete their family. They named him Matthew Eli. Matt, like his big sister, was a delightful baby, but unlike his sister, was a difficult child to raise. He was not a good student, not really troublesome, but he hated every day he had to go to school. He learned to read and write, math was difficult for him, but he was good at geography and he loved history. He got passing grades, but it was a struggle for him, and even more so for his mother. He didn’t quite get over the hump, dropping out of high school in his senior year. He eventually got his GED.
All Matt ever really wanted to do was join the US Army. His mother didn’t like the idea, but his father simply told him that if was going to be a soldier, just to be a good soldier. He joined the Army in 2008, and after basic training and AIT, he graduated from jump school in FT. Benning, GA. At last he was a trained Army paratrooper. Matt has spent the last 4 ½ years in either Ft. Richardson, Alaska or in Afghanistan. For the better part of two years home was a place called COP Herrera, a remote outpost high up in the Afghan mountains near the Pakistan border. After returning from his second deployment last August, he was married in Anchorage, and he remains at Ft. Richardson today.
So why am I telling you this story? As some of you may have already guessed, my wife and I have another name for Matt. We call him our son. And the reason I’m telling you all of this is really quite simple. Matt is an able-bodied, tax-paying citizen serving his country in the Army today because the Lighthouse in Kansas City provided a solution for Christy’s difficult situation. They provided a home for a young, scared, addicted, pregnant, teenage girl. They took care of her pre-natal needs, her emotional needs, her delivery, and her baby. Then they identified a family that could love and raise her young son.
Somehow we’ve reduced the debate about abortion to one phrase that trumps everything else: “a woman’s right to choose”. I acknowledge and respect and honor that right. But after conception there is another, often inconvenient factor in the equation that many like to overlook, the life of that little baby. The life of the baby is a reality no matter how difficult the circumstances. I believe we must also acknowledge and respect and honor the second life. That’s why we must offer more choices than the choice between life and death.
Today my challenge to you is to listen to the voice of the unborn child whose mother is contemplating abortion. Maybe it’s hard to hear right now, but in the quiet of the night when all the other voices are silent, maybe you can hear that voice. The voice may be very soft, maybe you can’t even hear it. But it’s there. I hear it loud and clear. For many, the voice is deafening. If it could speak, that quiet voice may say something like this: “Mom, I’d like to say a couple of things about this tough spot we’re in”……………
I told you the story of our son………and Christy’s son…….. to illustrate that there are two lives to consider when the hard choices have to be made. There’s not a person in this room who believes we need more abortions in Iowa; there are many who believe we need fewer abortions, far fewer. So now Senator Zaun has introduced Senate File 29 for consideration by the Senate. As I understand it the bill deals with the matter of taxpayer funds being used for abortion. We all understand the political calculations, the math is simple, and with the Senate rules that we have in place, this bill may well not see the light of day.
But we can do better than that! We can see this as a small step in the process of reducing the number of abortions in Iowa. Let’s find better choices for pregnant teenagers like the Lighthouse did. Let’s quit using the issue as a political football. Let’s each try to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Let’s stop asking the question about “who’s right”, and start asking the question “what’s right”. Let’s stop following the hardened lines of partisanship, and find a new path, a path that leads us to a better place in the years ahead. Let’s become a model for the rest of the country and show that we can deal with the matter of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies in a responsible, positive way.
We are the decision makers, we are called to be leaders. LET’S LEAD! Our scared, pregnant young women and their unborn children deserve nothing less!
And now, the final piece of the story. A few weeks ago our new daughter-in-law, Whitney, had started searching for Matt’s birthmother, for family medical history reasons. Last Tuesday evening my wife called me and told me to look at an e-mail. There, for the first time, I saw the face of Matt’s birthmother, Christy. On Wednesday, while I was here on the Senate floor, Whitney called me to tell me that she had just talked to Christy on the phone. Christy was ecstatic. On Thursday…..Valentine’s Day…….Matt called his birthmother. And when she picked up the phone, instead of hearing the silent, haunting voice of an unborn child that she might have terminated 25 years ago, she heard the strong voice of her firstborn son. Then Matt called his adopted mother, and thanked her, and me, for adopting him.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is the kind of outcome we should be looking for, that should be our goal.