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WASHINGTON, D.C., October 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking at the Values Voters summit on Friday, former Senator and GOP 2012 candidate Rick Santorum shared two unusual stories from behind the scenes of the years-long effort to ban partial-birth abortion: the change of opinion of a pro-abortion senator, and the eerily appropriate cry of a baby during a speech Santorum delivered on the subject.

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Santorum described an encounter with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), an ardent opponent of the ban, who approached Santorum during the 1998 debate of partial-birth abortion while the latter senator was speaking with Barbara Boxer. “He walks up to me and says, I want 20 minutes of your time. … I said, are you sure you don’t want 20 minutes of her time?” he said.

“After four years of arguing this bill, of laying out my heart and soul on the floor of the Senate, Pat Leahy stood there, and in a pained fashion, finally admitted that the arguments we were making on the floor about this bill and about this horrific procedure were just too overwhelming to resist,” Santorum said.

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The former senator also said that he credited the partial-birth abortion fight with a seismic shift in America’s thinking about abortion.

“For the first time, the issue of life and the issue of partial-birth abortion brought to the reality that the choice was a little baby, because in a partial-birth abortion you couldn’t miss the baby, it was in the doctor’s hands, it was alive, it would be otherwise born alive,” he said.

Santorum pointed out his legislative successes in the Senate, and his role as head of a homeschooling family of seven children, to emphasize his strength in uniting people with values shared in common, not in fomenting division. “I’m a leader, but I’m a teacher. And that’s the way to bring people together: is to find that common foundation of knowledge,” he said.

Although he vowed to uphold the defense of marriage, as well as sound national security policy and economic policy, much of Santorum’s address focused on the life issue.

After sharing the stories of his disabled 3-year-old daughter and son Gabriel, who lived only two hours after birth, Santorum stressed “the power to talk about something” from a leadership position as a catalyst for changing public opinion. “That’s how we changed with partial-birth [abortion], is because we talked about it,” he said.

Santorum recalled the words of a Washington Post article that described one of his first forays into the abortion debate on the Senate floor, during the unsuccessful 1996 effort to overturn President Clinton’s veto of a partial-birth abortion ban:

“Not five feet away, Republican Sen. Rick Santorum turned to face the opposition and in a high, pleading voice cried out, ‘Where do we draw the line? Some people have likened this procedure to an appendectomy. That’s not an appendix,’ he shouted, pointing to a drawing of a fetus. ‘That is not a blob of tissue. It is a baby. It’s a baby.’

“And then, impossibly, in an already hushed gallery, in one of those moments when the floor of the Senate looks like a stage set, with its rich wooden desks somehow too small for the matters at hand, the cry of a baby pierced the room, echoing across the chamber from an outside hallway.

“No one mentioned the cry, but for a few seconds no one spoke at all.”

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