The Corner

Politics & Policy

Senate Fails to Pass Born-Alive Bill

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

By a vote of 53-44, the Senate has failed to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would have required doctors to provide medical care to infants born alive after an attempted abortion procedure. The bill — sponsored by Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) and cosponsored by 49 of his fellow Republican senators — needed 60 votes to overcome the legislative filibuster.

Just three Democratic senators crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans in favor of the legislation: Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Doug Jones (Ala.).

All six of the Democratic senators currently running for the 2020 presidential nomination voted against the bill: Cory Booker (N.J.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), along with Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Three Republican senators did not vote on the bill: Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Tim Scott (S.C.). According to their communications directors, both Cramer and Scott missed the vote due to flight delays.

During the floor debate over the bill this afternoon, several Democratic senators said they planned to oppose the legislation because they believe it limits women’s health-care options. “That is the actual intent of this bill, reducing access to safe abortion care would threaten the health of women in Hawaii,” said Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii).

“This bill is just another line of attack in the ongoing war on women’s health,” said Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.).

Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota, said the born-alive bill “would override physicians’ professional judgment about what is best for their patients, and it would put physicians in the position of facing criminal penalties if their judgment about what is best for their patient is contrary to what is described in this bill.”

But nothing in the legislation forces doctors to provide any particular treatment to infants; it merely requires that they provide medical treatment. It mandates that doctors “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”

In other words, the born-alive bill would’ve done nothing more than insist that health-care providers treat children born alive after attempted abortions the same way that they’d treat any other infant.

Several Republican senators pushed back against the Democrats’ efforts to portray the bill as an attack on women’s health care. “I know a lot of opponents of this bill sincerely believe the talking points that they read from their staffs,” Sasse said. “We’ve heard speech after speech after speech that have nothing to do with what’s actually in this bill.”

“My colleagues across the aisle are debating a bill that’s not in front of us. They are talking about health care for women, which is abortion,” said Joni Ernst (R., Iowa). “This bill does not address abortion. . . . What this bill does is address the health care of a baby that is born alive after a botched abortion. We’re not talking about abortion, folks. We’re talking about the life of a child that is born.”

“I urge my colleagues to picture a baby that’s already been born, that’s outside the womb gasping for air,” Sasse added. “That’s the only thing that today’s vote is actually about. We’re talking about babies that have already been born. Nothing in this bill touches abortion access.”

Editor’s note: This post will be updated with details from the vote and from today’s floor debate as they become available.

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