The Corner

Law & the Courts

House Democrats Refuse 75 Times to Vote on Born-Alive Bill

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, Calif.) in Washington, D.C., May 23, 2019. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

Last night in the House of Representatives, Democratic leadership refused for the 75th time to bring the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to the floor for debate and a vote. Republican representatives have requested unanimous consent to consider the legislation every day since early February that Congress has been in session.

Yesterday evening, Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, conference chair for the GOP in the House, once again asked unanimous consent and was denied by House Democrats.

“The refusal by House Democrats to allow a vote on common sense legislation that protects the life of innocent babies and their mothers is abhorrent,” Cheney said in a statement after her request was rejected.

The born-alive bill, sponsored by Representative Ann Wagner (R., Mo.), would require doctors to provide medical care to infants born alive after attempted abortion procedures. Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) introduced the bill in the Senate earlier this year, and Senate Democrats blocked it in a floor vote on February 25. Three Democratic senators crossed the aisle to support the legislation: Bob Casey (Pa.), Doug Jones (Ala.), and Joe Manchin (W. Va.).

House Democrats, though, have consistently refused to consider the bill, likely because a vote would put moderate Democratic congressman in a difficult position. In February, a McLaughlin & Associates poll commissioned by the Susan B. Anthony List found that more than three-quarters of U.S. voters support legislation ensuring that infants who survive failed abortions are given the same medical treatment as any other baby born prematurely.

In an effort to force a vote on the bill anyway, House minority whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) filed a discharge petition in early April. If a majority of representatives sign on, it will allow the GOP to override the Democratic leadership’s obstruction and bring the born-alive bill to the floor for debate despite objections. That petition is currently at 201 signatures, with only three Democrats on board: Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Ben McAdams of Utah, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.

“Despite what Democrats, the media, or abortion advocates say, this isn’t a bill aimed at restricting access to abortion, nor would it punish doctors for performing abortions,” House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) told National Review via email on Tuesday evening. “This bill simply requires health care practitioners to provide babies born alive after surviving abortions with the same level of medical care as any other baby born alive. That’s it.”

Though opponents of the bill have argued otherwise, McCarthy is correct. Refusing to provide medical care to infants who survive abortions is not currently illegal under federal law. The GOP effort to push the born-alive legislation this year followed comments from Virginia’s Democratic governor Ralph Northam, who suggested in a radio interview in late January that such infants might be appropriately denied adequate medical care, at least in some circumstances.

“My Republican colleagues and I know there are moderate Democrats who feel the same, and are tired of this new Democrat majority cowering to its Socialist left wing,” McCarthy added. “They are ignoring issues that matter to the majority of the country and it is a shame this chamber has neglected to consider a vote on this commonsense piece of legislation.”

Watch Cheney on the House floor yesterday evening requesting unanimous consent:

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