Law & the Courts

Our Infanticidal Moment

Senator Patty Murray (D, Wash.) is one of several Senate Democrats who appear set to oppose the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 12, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Democrats are increasingly open in their support for abortion all the way through pregnancy. Legislation from Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) asks them whether they will draw a line even there.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which the Senate will consider on Monday, requires doctors to provide medical care to infants born alive in the course of attempted abortions and forbids killing them. Senator Sasse brought the legislation to the floor after Virginia’s Democratic governor Ralph Northam endorsed allowing mothers and physicians to determine whether newborns should be left to die, at least in some circumstances.

Democratic senators managed to avoid opining on Northam’s remarks, with help from reporters who chose to ignore or distort them. But Sasse’s bill forces the issue: Does increasing support among Democrats for abortion up until birth preclude them from supporting a bill that mandates medical care for newborns?

The answer appears to be yes. When Sasse requested unanimous consent to his legislation earlier this month, he was blocked by Democratic senator Patty Murray of Washington, who claimed that there are already laws against infanticide. In the context of abortion, this is false. No federal law enacts an explicit requirement that newborns be afforded “the same degree” of care that “any other child born alive at the same gestational age” would receive, as Sasse’s bill does. Only 33 states have a law like this in place, and those laws can, of course, be removed. New York’s recent abortion expansion affirmatively repealed the state’s born-alive protections.

Sounding eerily like Northam, opponents of the bill, including Planned Parenthood, claim that it will unduly restrict women’s health-care options. But this legislation places no restrictions on access to abortion or on the type of abortion a woman can receive. It creates criminal penalties for doctors who allow infants to die from lack of medical care and mandates that children delivered alive in abortion clinics be transported to a hospital. It requires reporting violations of the law, institutes penalties for directly killing a newborn, and grants the woman on whom an abortion is performed protection from prosecution and civil cause of action against the abortionist.

It is for obvious reasons that Democrats twist or disregard these facts to provide cover for their animosity toward this legislation. The born-alive bill might not limit abortion, but it uncovers the deep illogic of the pro-abortion-rights position. It compels politicians who defend abortion up to the moment of birth, but who remain sheepish about denying newborns a right to life, to confront their own irrationality.

If abortion-rights proponents concede that perhaps it is inhumane to permit an infant to perish the moment after birth, even if it was meant to have been aborted one minute earlier, they cannot explain why they would permit directly killing that same human being one minute earlier. If they admit that an infant, even an unwanted one, gains rights upon birth, they cannot explain why that same infant has no rights when it is inside his or her mother.

Democrats who oppose this bill will tacitly acknowledge that they believe an infant’s moral status stems not from its developmental stage or its location but from whether it is wanted by its mother. They will reveal that abortion is not a woman’s right to end her pregnancy but her right to end the life of her child.

In voting on this legislation, Democrats must choose between rejecting infanticide and arbitrary beliefs about who gets to live.

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