The Corner

Law & the Courts

Democrats Have No Good Reason to Oppose a Ban on Infanticide

Senator Patty Murray (D., Wash.) speaks in Washington, D.C., September 18, 2018. (Mike Segar/REUTERS)

The Senate will vote today on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill that would require doctors to provide medical care to infants born alive in the course of attempted abortion procedures.

When the bill’s sponsor, Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), requested unanimous consent to his legislation earlier this month, his request was blocked by Senator Patty Murray (D., Wash.). Murray claimed the bill is unnecessary because there are already laws against infanticide in the U.S. All month, abortion-rights supporters have argued that Democrats must oppose the bill because it’s a redundant show vote to criminalize something that is already illegal and that never happens.

But opponents of the bill simultaneously assert that the legislation is a sinister anti-abortion effort to restrict women’s health-care options and punish doctors for providing necessary care. So, which is it?

The born-alive bill can’t possibly be both a meaningless, needless show vote and an effort to punish women and incarcerate their doctors. These arguments are not only fundamentally contradictory, but they also happen to be false.

There is no existing federal law enacting an explicit requirement that newborns delivered in the context of abortion be afforded “the same degree” of care that “any other child born alive at the same gestational age” would receive, as this bill would. Only 33 states currently offer some kind of protection for infants born after attempted abortions, and those laws can be repealed; New York’s Reproductive Health Act last month did just that.

The legislation places no restrictions on access to abortion or on the type of abortion a woman can receive, nor does it mandate any particular type of medical care for a born-alive infant — the specifics are left up to the judgment of the physician in each case.

The bill is co-sponsored by 49 Republican senators, which means it has 50 nearly guaranteed “yes” votes. Of the three remaining Republicans, Cory Gardner (Colo.) has a solid track record of supporting pro-life policies, while Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) tend to oppose them. None of these three senators has responded to a National Review request for comment about their stance on the legislation.

Among the Democrats, there are 43 almost certain “no” votes. Four Democratic senators could conceivably cross the aisle and vote in favor of the legislation: Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Jon Tester (Mt.). They have not said how they plan to vote this evening.

Floor debate will begin in the Senate this afternoon, followed by a roll-call vote.

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