All But 3 Senate Democrats Vote to Block Anti-Infanticide Bill

Patrick Goodenough | February 26, 2019 | 4:22am EST
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Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse. (Photo By Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

( – Every Senate Democrat bar three – and including all of the confirmed and possible 2020 presidential contenders – voted Monday to block legislation requiring a baby born alive during a botched abortion to receive the same level of care as any other newborn infant.

While the Senate voted 53-44 to advance the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, the result fell short of the 60 votes needed to break a Democratic filibuster.

Ahead of the vote the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebr.) voiced frustration at arguments by opponents claiming the legislation threatens abortion “rights.”

“The bill’s terms are simple: A child born alive during a botched abortion would be given the same level of care that would be provided to any other baby born at that same gestational stage,” he said.

“That's it. This bill isn't about abortion. I’m pro-life – I’m unapologetically pro-life – but this bill is not actually about anything that limits abortion,” Sasse continued. “What this bill does is try to secure basic rights, equal rights, for babies that are born and are outside the womb. That’s what we're talking about.”

Sasse’s bill was co-sponsored by 49 Republicans. All Republicans present voted to advance it, joined by Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Doug Jones (Ala.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.).

Voting “no” were all of the Democrats who are running, or viewed as likely to run, for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination – Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) – plus independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)

Sasse challenged some of those presidential aspirants, quoting back at them some of their recent statements about protecting the vulnerable. Did they mean those words, he asked, or were they “just claptrap for the campaign trail and for soundbites?”

Sasse said it felt as though about one-third of the Senate was currently running for president – “so I'd like to quote a few of them over the course of the last couple months.”

“We ought to, quote, ‘build a country where no one is forgotten and no one is left behind,’ close quote. Amen to that.” (Booker, in his campaign launch video.)

“Quote, ‘The people in our society who are most often targeted by predators are often the voiceless and the vulnerable.’ That's true.” (Harris, in her campaign launch speech.)

“Another said – offered a promise to, quote, ‘fight for other people’s kids as hard as I fight for my own kids,’ close quote.” (Gillibrand, in her campaign launch announcement on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.)

“And just last week, our colleague from Vermont announced his campaign by saying, quote, ‘the mark of a great nation is how it treats its most vulnerable people,’ close quote.” (Sanders said in his launch speech, “I’m running for president because a great nation is judged not by how many billionaires and nuclear weapons it has, but by how it treats the most vulnerable – the elderly, the children, our veterans, the sick and the poor.”)

“Well, now’s the chance tonight in this body to make good on that promise,” Sasse said. “Now’s the chance to protect one of the most vulnerable populations imaginable – tiny, defenseless little babies who just started to breathe on that, on that hospital table, having just taken their first breath.”

“Or was that all just claptrap for the campaign trail and for soundbites?” he asked. “Or do people mean the stuff that they say around here?”

‘An attempt to score political points with anti-choice groups’

Among Democrats voicing opposition to Sasse’s bill, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) charged that it would “impose new obstacles to a woman’s constitutionally-protected right to make her own decisions about her reproductive health.”

She said the initiative “appears to be an attempt to score political points with anti-choice groups.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) called the legislation the “latest salvo in the far-right wing assault on a woman’s constitutionally-protected right to an abortion.”

She argued that since there was no “epidemic” of infanticide in the United States, the bill was therefore “a solution in search of a problem.”

Deploring the vote outcome, March for Life president Jeanne Mancini wondered whether senators opposed to the legislation “have what it takes to serve.”

“Senator Sasse’s common sense bill would merely require doctors assist a newborn struggling to survive after a failed attempt on her life. Anyone who lacks the basic level of human compassion needed to vote in favor of this should quickly find another job,” she said.

“An overwhelming majority of voters are horrified by infanticide and want Congress to protect babies born alive during failed abortions,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “But when forced to take a position on the record, not a single one of the top Senate Democrats running for president in 2020 could muster the basic decency to outlaw infanticide.”

Dannenfelser pointed to a new Marist poll that recorded an apparently significant shift among Democrats and younger Americans towards pro-life views.

See also:

Congresswomen in White Sit Stone-Faced as Chamber Cheers Trump’s Call to Ban Late-Term Abortion (Feb. 6, 2019)

Virginia Governor Describes How Post-Birth Abortion Would Proceed (Jan. 30, 2019)

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