The Corner

Law & the Courts

Debunking Media Falsehoods on the Born-Alive Bill

Senator Ben Sasse speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (Andrew Harnik/Pool via Reuters)

On Monday, 44 Democratic senators voted down the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would have mandated that doctors provide medical care to infants that survive attempted abortion procedures.

In defense of their “no” votes on this eminently reasonable legislation, Democrats mustered a host of lies — including, most prominently, the easily disprovable claim that the bill is anti-abortion and restricts women’s access to necessary health care.

All one would need to do to determine whether these claims were accurate is refer to the text of the legislation, which every single Democratic senator failed to do. That is for an obvious reason: The bill text did not substantiate their assertions. Nothing in the legislation limits access to abortion or regulates particular abortion methods. The only way it touches on abortion procedures at all is that it protects infants who have survived them.

But Democrats have gotten away with their transparently political rationalizations for turning a blind eye to infanticide because the vast majority of the media is complicit in peddling them. From the moment Virginia governor Ralph Northam uttered his now-infamous endorsement of infanticide (which he attempted to clarify, but never walked back) to the moment Democrats killed the born-alive bill on the Senate floor, media outlets have been engaged in, at best, a wholesale blackout and, at worst, an effort to themselves contort the substance of the legislation.

According to some digging done by David Harsanyi, CNN, ABC News, NBC News, and MSNBC television all ignored the born-alive bill almost entirely. If they mentioned the bill at all, it was to echo the Democratic mischaracterization of it as “anti-abortion,” as The Hill, Washington Post, and Politico all did in their articles on the topic.

The author of the Politico piece inexplicably placed the phrase “attempted abortion” in wholly unnecessary scare quotes, and did the same to “abortion survivors” in a subsequent tweet. The article also demonstrated a favorite tactic of liberal media, casting the bill as a Republican effort to “jam” and “squeeze” Democrats on abortion.

Meanwhile, a CBS News article from this afternoon by Kate Smith is perhaps the best example of the astonishingly inaccurate framing and outright misinformation that mainstream outlets have spread about the born-alive bill. The headline puts both “born-alive” and “late-term” [abortion] in scare quotes for no discernible reason, and the piece somehow only devolves from there.

It’s riddled with falsehoods, claiming that the born-alive bill “echoed existing laws and medical practices” and “mirror[ed] previously passed legislation from 2002.” In fact, there is no existing federal legislation, including the 2002 bill, that mandates medical care for infants born alive after attempted abortion procedures.

Smith insists that the GOP attempt to pass the bill is evidence of “a push by the conservative right to reframe the reproductive rights debate toward third-trimester abortions.” And later in the article she repeats herself: “The push for the legislation is part of an ongoing attempt by Republicans to shift the debate on reproductive rights to focus on so-called late-term abortions.”

Most important, the born-alive bill is, again, not about regulating abortion or abortion rights at all, whether late-term or otherwise.

But anyone following the issue knows that the push Smith describes has been undertaken by Democrats themselves — conservatives are merely pointing it out. Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), the sponsor of the born-alive legislation, asked for a vote on his bill on the heels of Northam’s own comments justifying infanticide and Democratic politicians’ subsequent refusal to say whether or not they agreed with the governor (along with the conspicuous absence of any mainstream reporters asking them to do so).

It is Democrats, not “the conservative right,” who are proposing state-level bills to expand abortion access during the third trimester. It is Democrats, not Republicans, who are repealing born-alive protections in state law. It is Democrats who are proudly planting their party flag on the terrain of abortion on demand up until birth — and, with their opposition to the born-alive bill, on the terrain of allowing unwanted infants to die after birth, too.

The born-alive bill isn’t part of a nefarious pro-life plot. Democrats are in the process of exposing their own extremism, and they very well may pay a political price for it. If they weren’t getting so much cover from the media, it would be costing them even more than it is already.

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