Senate Democrats on Monday blocked an effort to pass legislation clarifying that babies who survive attempted abortions must receive medical care.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., rejected the motion to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, authored by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and co-sponsored by other Republicans. Sasse had sought to pass the bill via unanimous consent, meaning that one senator could stop it by objecting.
“You’re either for babies or you’re defending infanticide,” Sasse said before the vote. “That’s literally what this bill is about.”
Murray said in objecting to the call for unanimous consent the U.S. already had laws against infanticide, and accused Sasse of misrepresenting the purpose of his legislation.
GOP senators were aiming to pressure Democrats to state whether they believe any limits should be placed on abortion after controversial comments appearing to indicate otherwise from Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
Northam and Virginia Del. Kathy Tran, also a Democrat, last week said they supported a state bill that appeared to allow abortion at the time of birth. Tran later said she misspoke about when abortion would be permitted and Northam’s office later released a statement saying that the governor’s comments were mischaracterized and had been intended in cases where a baby wouldn’t survive birth because of deformity or another health issue.
The abortion bill introduced in the Senate had the backing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said during his opening remarks on the Senate floor Monday that the legislation was “the very definition of something that might receive unanimous consent.”
“What could be more unanimous than this? … It’s harrowing this legislation is even necessary,” McConnell said.
He added that he hoped Democrats “don’t invent any reasons to block this bill later today. I can assure them this won’t be the last time to assure newborns are offered this final legal protection.”
The bill would have built on the 2002 Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which clarified that “every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development” is a “person” for all federal law purposes. That law was intended to clarify that babies were supposed to receive protections if they survived an abortion, and Sasse’s bill further clarifies what level of care they are supposed to receive, including being immediately transferred to a hospital.
If that protocol isn’t followed, then the doctor performing the abortion would face criminal prosecution.
Sasse quoted Northam on the House floor, saying his comments were an endorsement of infanticide and that he had “tarnished the American idea of equality under the law.”
The anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List condemned the outcome of the bill. They urged Senate leaders to formally vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to see where each senator stood on the issue.
“Senate Democrats had the chance today to prove they are not the party of infanticide, and instead they doubled down on extremism,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of SBA List, said in a statement. “The Democratic Party’s agenda of abortion on demand through birth and even beyond is radically out of step with the standards of decency the overwhelming majority of Americans expect from their leaders.”