The Corner

Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats Block Bill Prohibiting Infanticide

Sen. Patty Murray on Capitol Hill in 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

On the Senate floor this evening, Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) called for unanimous consent on his Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which provides protections for any infants born alive after attempted abortion procedures.

Democratic senator Patty Murray of Washington objected to the bill on the floor, preventing it from receiving unanimous consent. Murray claimed that the legislation is unnecessary because there are already legal prohibitions on infanticide. Murray was the only Democratic senator to come to the Senate floor this evening and left immediately after objecting.

Earlier today, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell affirmed his support for Sasse’s legislation and hinted that he’d be willing to bring it to the floor for a roll-call vote. “I hope that none of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle invent any reasons to block this request later today,” McConnell said. “That would make quite a disturbing statement. If they do inexplicably block Senator Sasse’s effort, I can assure them that this will not be the last time we try to ensure that all newborns are afforded this fundamental legal protection.”

In response to Murray’s objection, Sasse noted the recent abortion expansion in New York, which contradicted her claim by removing protections for newborn infants. And, in fact, only 26 states have affirmative protections for children born alive after attempted abortions. The Nebraska senator’s renewed effort to push the bill comes on the heels of Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s recent comments appearing to defend allowing some newborn infants to die, depending on the circumstances and their mother’s wishes.

“We are actually talking about babies that have been born. The only debate on the floor tonight is about infanticide. . . . This is about fourth-trimester abortion,” Sasse said on the floor this evening, after quoting Northam’s remarks. “Everyone in this Senate ought to be able to say that the little baby deserves life, that she has rights, and that killing her is wrong.”

Sasse also quoted from several Democratic senators currently running for the 2020 presidential nomination. New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, for example, has said she will “fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own.” California senator Kamala Harris, meanwhile, said in her speech announcing her campaign that “the people in our society who are most often targeted by predators are also most often the voiceless and vulnerable.”

Following his remarks and Murray’s objection, several Republican senators spoke on the Senate floor in support of the bill.

“This is the world’s greatest legislate body,” said Senator Joni Ernst (R., Iowa). “There is nothing great, there is nothing moral or even humane, about the discussion that we have before us today.”

“Somehow this conversation has devolved so completely that a bill prohibiting the murder of children who are born alive,” Ernst added, “a bill that simply prohibits infanticide, has tonight been blocked on the floor of the Senate.”

“It is hard to fathom the extremism of politicians in New York and now Virginia who would deny the protections of law to the most vulnerable members of our society, the innocent unborn, even up to birth,” Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) said of the recent legislation that would expand the right to post-viability abortion. “Is this really the extremism of the Democratic party?”

“Some are tempted when they see this rising tide of barbarism and cruelty to feel despair, but I am not,” Hawley said. “I think of the words of Lincoln who spoke of the unfinished work of this nation. . . . We must press forward in this generation for our revolutionary faith.”

Senator James Lankford (R., Okla.) noted that the Senate is willing to affirm resolutions by unanimous consent to congratulate the New England Patriots on winning the Super Bowl but remains unwilling to affirm Sasse’s legislation.

“How can this be a discussion we’re having on the Senate floor?” Lankford said. “It used to be my Democratic colleagues said life begins at birth. Now, apparently, it’s not at life anymore. It’s unknown when life begins. Because it’s a discussion now at birth.”

Lankford also pointed out that bills permitting abortion all the way through the last three months of pregnancy put the United States in a category with only North Korea, China, and Vietnam.

“For the short time I’ve been here, what a rude awakening to what can happen,” said Senator Mike Braun (R., Ind.), who, along with Hawley, was just elected last November. “I just ask citizens across this country, Hoosiers, to weigh in. Let your senators know that this is a step too far. When something like this occurs in this chamber, when it’s crystallized so simply, and you’re either for or against infanticide, I never imagined I’d be seeing this so early in my tenure here.”

Republican senators are expected to keep pressure on the issue and push for a roll-call vote in the near future.

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