Law & the Courts

Leading Public-Health Groups Oppose Ban on Infanticide

Pro-life marchers rally at the Supreme Court during the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
This extremism cannot be overlooked or forgotten.

The Senate will vote next week on legislation that would require doctors to care for infants born alive in the course of attempted abortions. In their latest effort to push the boundaries of pro-abortion extremism, Senate Democrats are set to oppose the measure.

Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) brought his Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to the floor earlier this month in the wake of disgraced Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s heinous comments about infanticide — and Democratic politicians’ refusal to condemn the governor for those remarks. The bill doesn’t set any limits on the right to obtain an abortion, nor on any abortion method.

Yet Democratic senators are convinced that saying otherwise will enable them to vote against a measure that prohibits infanticide without appearing to have done so. How can they get away with it?

They have powerful allies. Senator Patty Murray (D., Wash.) — who on behalf of Senate Democrats blocked Sasse’s request for unanimous consent to his bill — has not only claimed that infanticide is already illegal (in the context of abortion, it is not), but now casts the eminently reasonable legislation as an attack on women’s health:

Though Murray evidently has little compunction about lying for the sake of promoting abortion on demand, here she is telling a partial truth: There are leading groups, some more “medical” than others, that oppose the born-alive bill. Their reasons for doing so are deeply revealing.

In a letter to U.S. senators, a copy of which was obtained by National Review, 17 public-health organizations called Sasse’s bill “a dangerous government intrusion into private health care decisions.” Among the signatories are the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, Planned Parenthood, and the National Abortion Federation.

The letter calls the born-alive legislation “another restriction on women’s access to reproductive health care” and says it would limit women’s access to “compassionate and appropriate medical care.” Here is what the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would do, according to its text:

  • creates criminal penalties for doctors who allow infants to die rather than providing medical care after attempted abortion procedures
  • mandates that a child born alive in an abortion clinic be transported to a hospital for further care
  • requires health-care practitioners to report any violations of the law
  • institutes penalties for intentionally killing a newborn, including fines and up to five years’ imprisonment
  • grants the woman on whom the abortion is performed civil cause of action against the abortionist and protection from prosecution if her child is not cared for after birth

If these provisions constitute undue restrictions on “compassionate reproductive health care,” then causing an unwanted infant to die after birth must be, in their view, a medically and ethically acceptable extension of the right to an abortion.

In its most eerie passages, the letter comes dangerously close to echoing Northam’s own rhetoric. Sasse’s bill, these groups say, “injects politicians into the patient-provider relationship, disregarding providers’ training and clinical judgment and undermining their ability to determine the best course of action with their patients.” And later: “Every woman needs to be able to make the decision that is best for her and her family.”

When Northam was asked about legislation in Virginia that the bill’s sponsor said would allow abortion even during labor, the governor explained his support for it this way: “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. 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 physicians and the mother.”

Though he later attempted to clarify his comments as having been in reference to “non-viable” infants or those born with “severe fetal abnormalities,” he never walked back his central point. In fact, Northam’s spokesperson doubled down, saying that the governor believes “physicians and women, not legislators, should make these difficult and deeply personal medical decisions.”

The line is nearly indistinguishable from the argument made by these groups and Senate Democrats who intend to block the born-alive bill. This is political activism disguised as medicine, pro-abortion sloganeering cloaked in a thin veil of jargon. The letter reads like a Planned Parenthood press release — and for good reason, given that the nation’s largest abortion provider is one of the letter’s signatories and surely a ringleader of this effort to portray Democratic opposition to Sasse’s legislation as mere good sense.

These politicians, along with their allies in the medical sphere, have all but admitted that killing an infant constitutes “reproductive health care.” Democrats may succeed in blocking this bill on Monday, but they must not be allowed to get away with positioning such a move as anything other than an open endorsement of infanticide.

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