Senate Democrats rejected on Monday an effort to ensure that babies who survive abortion attempts receive medical care.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) introduced the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act, and looked to pass the bill Feb. 4 via unanimous consent. That process means one senator can stop the vote by raising an objection.
“You’re either for babies or you’re defending infanticide,” Sasse said Monday before the vote.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash) objected to the bill, bringing the effort to a conclusion.
Sasse announced last Thursday that he would seek to pass the bill through a roll call vote. Sasse said that he expected the bill to pass unanimously.
“I’m going to be asking unanimous consent--for senators to come to the floor,” he said on Thursday.
“I’m going to ask all 100 senators to come to the floor and be against infanticide. This shouldn’t be complicated.”
Sasse’s move to fast-track the bill was sparked by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D)’s comments regarding a proposed bill that would have eased restrictions on third-trimester abortions in the state. Northam, speaking in a radio interview on WTOP, described how a baby surviving a botched abortion would be given “comfort care” while a woman and her doctor discussed whether or not to provide additional medical intervention.
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would penalize doctors who do not attempt to provide medical care to an infant born alive after an abortion with up to five years in prison. The bill also requires that an infant born in an abortion clinic be transferred to a hospital. A woman attempting to procure an abortion would also be granted civil cause of action against the medical professional performing the abortion, and would not be subject to criminal penalties.
On Friday, Sasse told CNA that he did not think there was “any legitimate argument” that could be made against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. And while he said that he hoped the bill would be passed unanimously, he said that if anyone were to come forward against the bill, that they do so on the Senate floor prior to the vote.
"(Senators) need to show what side they're on,” Sasse told CNA last week. “It's a pretty simple question: are you on the side of these vulnerable little babies, or are you on the side of Gov. Northam and his defense of infanticide?"
Despite Sasse’s insistence that this legislation is commonsense, and the fact that the bill does not limit abortion rights or create any new regulation for abortion providers that would impede their ability to perform abortions, opposition was expected.
A similar bill was passed through the House of Representatives along nearly total party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of passing the legislation joined by only six Democrats. One of the Democrats, Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), later said that he had misunderstood the bill and would not have voted for it.
Sasse’s bill is co-sponsored by more than two dozen Senate Republicans. The House version of the bill was co-sponsored by 146 members. One Democrat, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), joined 145 Republicans as co-sponsors.
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is Sasse’s second recent use of unanimous consent in the senate. In January he submitted a resolution underscoring the constitutional prohibition of “religious tests” being imposed on candidates for public office, specifically clarifying that membership of the Knights of Columbus is not a disqualification from holding public office.
That resolution was sparked after Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned a judicial nominee about belonging to the Knights of Columbus and suggested that the group held “extreme” positions on social issues.
Although that resolution passed with unanimous consent, Hirono later took to the Senate floor and stated that she felt Sasse was embracing the “alt-right’s position” by supporting the Knights of Columbus.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, head of the U.S. bishop’s religious liberty committee, sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday asking them to end the practice of asking “discriminatory questions” and to “refrain from further imposing religious tests on judicial nominees.”
Kurtz singled out the Knights of Columbus questioning as a “religious test” that was being unfairly imposed on Catholic nominees.
“Not only are religious tests unconstitutional and unjust, they are an attack on all people of faith and those with no faith at all,” said Kurtz. “Religious tests tell not only Catholics, but all Americans, that they cannot both serve their country and live out their convictions.”