A bill meant to preserve the life of babies who survive an abortion attempt was rejected by Senate Democrats after Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse pleaded with them to unanimously pass the measure Monday.
“This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. We're way beyond that. Everyone in the Senate ought to be able to say unequivocally that the little baby deserves life. That she has rights, and that killing her is wrong,” Sasse declared in remarks seeking unanimous consent on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
The bill sought to require "any health care practitioner present" at the time of a birth to "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."
It exempted mothers involved from prosecution, and proposed requiring practitioners to "ensure that the child born alive is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital." A possible term of imprisonment of up to five years for violations, not including penalties for first-degree murder that could also apply was also proposed.
The U.S. House passed a similar bill in January, 2018.
A similar bill, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, but that legislation didn't contain any penalties or enforcement mechanisms.
Sasse pointed to recent decisions by New York and a proposal by Virginia supported by the state’s embattled Gov. Ralph Northam, to allow abortions up to birth as a march toward removing protections against infanticide.
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“Governor Northam is a disgraced coward and he has such an abysmally view of human dignity that he couldn’t bring himself to say this basic truth: it’s wrong to let little babies who've been born die,” Sasse said.
“The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act prohibits exactly the kind of infanticide that Governor Northam was endorsing. That’s it. That’s what the legislation is about.
“It’s based on the simple idea that every baby deserves a fighting chance. It’s a simple idea that every human being is an image bearer, even the weakest and the most marginalized among us are no less human, and every one of us has a moral obligation to defend the defenseless,” he said.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who was the only Democrat on the floor objected to Sasse’s request however, arguing that there are already laws in place to protect against infanticide.
“We have laws against infanticide in this country. This is a gross misinterpretation of the actual language of the bill that is being asked to be considered and therefore I object,” she said before leaving.
Four Republican senators, including Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, who spoke in favor of Sasse’s proposal, expressed dismay at Murray’s objection, the Omaha World reported.
“We have moved beyond all common sense when this body can no longer unanimously condemn murder,” Ernst said. “We face a moral crisis when this body refuses to acknowledge the repugnancy and savagery of infanticide. This assault on human dignity cannot stand.”
Conservative groups following the proceedings also quickly condemned the decision to scuttle Sasse’s proposal to protect infants born alive.
“I’m grieved that any senator would in any way stand with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam who left many wondering last week what he believes about infanticide. The governor seems to be perfectly fine with letting babies born-alive die after a botched abortion, so long as that is the wish of the parents and their physician. Additionally, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo should not have signed legislation expanding abortion until birth while also removing care protections for babies born alive after a failed abortion,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement Monday.
“Senator Murray won’t have the final say on whether infants born alive will be fully protected by federal law. One day soon, I’m confident U.S. senators will be forced to take a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and then voters will hold them accountable for their votes,” he added.