In-Depth: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) introduced this bill to protect infants born alive after an attempted abortion in response to a bill to expand access to late-term abortions under consideration in Virginia, which the state’s governor spoke in favor of:
“Here’s just one of the ugly nuggets from Ralph Northam, the Governor of Virginia. “If the mother is in labor the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated, if that’s what the mother and the family desired and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”...
Everyone in the Senate ought to be able to say unequivocally that killing that little baby is wrong. This doesn’t take any political courage. And, if you can’t say that, if there’s a member of this body that can’t say that, there may be lots of work you can do in the world but you shouldn’t be here. You should get the heck out of any calling in public life where you pretend to care about the most vulnerable among us. There should be no politics here that are right vs. left, or Republican vs. Democrat. This is the most basic thing you could be talking about. We’re talking about a little baby born alive and we have a public official in America defending the idea “Well, you could have a debate about killing her.””
Northam’s communications director attempted to clarify the governor’s comments in the following statement (the VA bill has since been tabled by the state House):
“No woman seeks a third trimester abortion except in the case of tragic or difficult circumstances, such as a nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities, and the governor’s comments were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances went into labor.”
Sasse tried to bring his bill to the floor for a vote by asking unanimous consent, but Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) objected and blocked the bill. Sasse thanked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for scheduling a floor vote on his bill, issuing the following statement:
“I want to thank the Majority Leader for scheduling this vote so that every American can know where their Senator stands on the issue of infanticide. A lot of Senators spend a lot of time telling people how they fight for the little guy. Well, here’s the chance for them to prove it. We’re going to have a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and everyone is going to have to put their name by their vote. It’s cowardly for a politician to say they’ll fight for the little guy but only if the little guy isn’t an actual seven-pound baby who’s fighting for life. It shouldn’t be hard to protect newborn babies - let’s pass this legislation.”
This legislation has the support of 49 cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans.
Of Note: The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002 after unanimously passing Congress, clarifies that for the purpose of federal law the terms “person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual” include every infant born alive — whether the birth is the result of labor, c-section, or induced abortion. It doesn’t contain its own criminal penalties or enforcement mechanisms to hold abortion providers accountable for failing to provide medical attention and care to infants born alive.
According to the Guttmacher Institute there are 24 states that impose abortion bans after a certain number of weeks, 17 of which ban abortion at about 20 weeks post-fertilization or its equivalent of 22 weeks on the grounds that the fetus can feel pain. Globally, only the U.S., Canada, North Korea, China, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Netherlands allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy according to Politifact.
Between 8,000 and 15,000 late-term abortions (at or after 21 weeks of gestation) are performed in the U.S. each year according to 2015 data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and the 2008 Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health report.
While it’s often said that women who seek late-term abortions do so because of fetal abnormalities or danger to their life if the fetus was delivered, limited research indicates that isn’t the case. A 2018 Congressional Research Service report quoted Diana Greene Foster, a lead reproductive health investigator at UCSF’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, as saying she believes abortions for fetal anomaly “make up a small minority of later abortion” and that those for life endangerment are even harder to characterize.
In some instances, abortions fail and an infant is born alive — although data on the number of survivors is difficult to come by in the U.S. In 2015, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Melissa Ohden, the founder of the Abortion Survivors Network.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Coral222)