Yes, Democrats blocked a bill that would protect infants who survived botched abortions. Yes, that ties abortion-choice into child-abuse, ablism, mercy-killing, and infanticide. No, it does not necessarily mean Democrats hate babies or want more abortions. But it still isn’t clear why they voted that way. In this post, I explore possible reasons why Democrats would risk such bad publicity and vote against basic protection for abortion-survivors.
On Monday (2.25.2019) forty-four Senate Democrats voted down the “Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act”. This bill would require that any children that are born, surviving abortion, must be treated as persons and cared-for as patients. This vote killed the bill, at least as long as Democrats have the Senate majority. Republicans needed 60 votes to break the standing filibuster. Democrats had been stalling for weeks. But even with 3 swing votes from across the aisle, there were only 53 total votes. The bill failed. In total, 44 democrats voted against the bill, including all seven Democrat presidential candidates:
- Cory Booker
- Sherrod Brown
- Kirsten Gillibrand
- Kamala Harris
- Amy Klobuchar
- Bernie Sanders
- and Elizabeth Warren
Now, if you get all your news through mainstream media you might not have known about this infanticide-friendly outcome. And you wouldn’t know it happened at the hands of Senate Democrats. That’s because mainstream media continued its blackout of pro-life friendly news. The media blackout over the Kermit Gosnell trial, and the annual March for Life, was in full effect with this unsightly outcome for abortion-choice politicians. Conservative media streams lit up like Christmas over the news because it’s bad press for Senate Democrats. But liberal-leaning media largely ignored it. Dems can boldly vote this way “because the media will let them get away with it.” Fortunately, mainstream media isn’t the only avenue for news these days. The truth comes out, eventually
But, bad press or not, voting down a bill that would prevent child-abuse, ablism, and infanticide is still a head-scratcher. What were they thinking? How could they do this? Why would 44 Democrats vote down a bill that would protect living, born, children?
Bill Sasse vs. Ralph Northam
One would think a strong stance against child-abuse, ablism, and infanticide would draw unanimous consent. The bill’s founder, Senator Bill Sasse (R-NE), championed this bill precisely for that purpose, to establish unanimous agreement that, whether pro-choice or pro-life, we can all agree that born children deserve basic care and protection even if they survived a botched abortion.
This bill would, at least, be a gesture of defiance against statements like that of Virginia governor Ralph Northam that ambiguate precisely where we need moral clarity the most. Defending a late-term abortion-choice bill, Northam said of late-term abortions, medically complicated deliveries that, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired.”
Now, Northam may not have intended his words to sound as scandalous as they did. But, at minimum, he stated his support for late-term abortion access – even till the moment just before birth. He left open any legal loopholes that may threaten children who survive abortion (i.e., unreported child-abuse, passive euthanasia, negligent homicide, etc., unreported murder). And he explicitly refused to mention the humanity of those fetal humans.
Republican motivations aren’t too hard to figure out. Their pro-life platform fits well with the bill’s strong stance against abuse, infanticide, and ablism.
Republicans may have also been grandstanding, seizing on the radical leftward swing of Democrats. Republicans can pick up some moderate voters who don’t want to follow the Dems towards a social-democrat platform (incl., socialized healthcare and unrestricted abortion access). Anti-trumpism has swelled the sails of the Democrat fleet, so much so that Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a groundswell of social-democrat voters have found a home in the Democrat party. The left is pulling farther left.
But, as the Democrat establishment is reaching for voters on the radical left, they may have overextended themselves, marginalizing their moderate-liberal base. Democrat overreach smells like opportunity for Republicans. Enter the Born-Alive bill.
Most Americans would have no problem with the Born-alive bill, since most Americans now identify as pro-life, wanting heavy restrictions on abortion or even banning it after fetal-viability. Contrast that with the Democrat party which is pushing for unrestricted full-term abortion access in New York, Vermont, and Rhode Island. There are probably more “unrestricted abortion” bills coming down the pike too.
This spate of radical pro-choice bills seem to be (1) doomsday prepping their Democrat states in the event of a pro-life apocalypse (i.e., Roe v. Wade overturned). And (2) they’re aligning their political actions with resource channels from the abortion-choice and feminist lobby. 2019 is a big fundraising year for the anti-trump campaign season. Democrats can help secure precious campaign contributions and public endorsements with big pro-choice political gestures.
All that means Republicans come out winners on this Born-Alive bill. Even though the bill was sidelined by a Democrat “No” vote, it’s a symbolic victory for Republicans for exposing the radical left-wing swing among Senate Democrats. Dems showed more solidarity than humanity on this vote. And it gave Republicans a chance to pat themselves on the back for their pro-life humanitarianism.
The Republican reasoning doesn’t seem to complicated. But the motivation for Democrats is not as easy to understand. I’ll try to give the Democrats the benefit of the doubt, even though we all know that a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted whenever politicians are talking, whether Democrats or Republicans.
1. Consistency: Opposition to all things Republican.
Perhaps Democrats generally oppose any Republican bill. If it’s a bad bill, they can stand against it on principle. If it’s a good bill, then they can have a Democrat write and propose something just like it and then focus on supporting that one. Score: Dems 1, Repubs 0. We live in painfully partisan times and Dems and Repubs could both be doing this. Democrats were already filibustering the bill. They were stringing it along so it would never get a chance for a final vote. But, things escalated when a motion was made for cloture (limiting the time of debate so a final vote could happen). Monday’s vote rejected cloture, extending the filibuster, effectively aborting the anti-infanticide bill.
2. Solidarity: Unite or die
Second, another motivation is solidarity. To be fair, three Democrats did stray from the party line voting the other way: Doug Jones (AL), Joe Manchin (WV), and Bob Casey (PA). But 44 other Senate Democrats stood their ground and voted to reject cloture so the filibuster would win. Needing 60 votes to break the filibuster, Republicans could only pool 53 votes. Solidarity is a strong-suit for Senate Democrats.
3. Abortion-choice: On demand and without apology
Third, senate democrats apparently saw this bill primarily as an anti-abortion measure. According to New York Times columnist Denise Grady, they thought “the bill was aimed at discouraging doctors from performing legal abortions.” Discouraging abortions would, normally, be a good thing if Democrats wanted to keep abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” But with recent trends, Democrats are favoring, “abortion on demand and without apology.” That is, unrestricted abortion access.
In reality, the bill wasn’t discouraging doctors from legal abortions but discouraging doctors from botching abortions, and if they did botch an abortion, they would be required to act as healthcare providers now that there’s a new patient under their care. Legally speaking, born children are already legal persons. Nevertheless, Democrats defended their no-vote with typical buzzwords: “Women’s health,” “her body, her choice,” “private decision between a woman and her doctor,” and scolding “government intrusion” in women’s health decisions. I’m not mocking the kernel of truth in each of these phrases, but the way they are thoughtlessly used, without nuance, and without maturing with the times these talking points sound like a public speaker who hasn’t updated his material since the 1980’s.
Plus, these responses ring hollow when it’s no longer a “private” one-on-one decision between a woman and her doctor. There’s a crying newborn baby interrupting that private conversation between her mom and the doctor. The time for abortion has passed once the child is born, so the typical “abortion” rhetoric doesn’t fit. Neonates are legally protected as distinct persons from their mothers. So “women’s health” should now include female babies. And the conversation must shift to include basic protections against infanticide.
4. Mistaken Identity: Abortion on Demand and . . . hey wait! What?
Fourth, Democrats failed to appreciate how this bill isn’t really about abortion, it’s about infanticide. All the public discussion about this bill, now, keeps mentioning “infanticide.” But as long as Senate Democrats were directing the conversation they could recast this bill as a covert anti-abortion bill. Now, to be fair, failed-abortions set the context for this bill, but this bill is still about infanticide. It offers at least a representative stance interrupting any abortion-provider who might be tempted to cover the tracks of his malpractice by committing infanticide.
5. Allegiance: Planned Parenthood said it first.
Fifth, senate democrats may have been allying with their well-known sponsors in Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby. Planned Parenthood representatives have gone on record supporting the infanticide option, as long as that is the decision between the mother and her doctor.
6. Defensive Medicine: Is it malpractice if the child survives?
Sixth, Democrats were likely protecting the interests of abortion-providers concerned about medical malpractice issues. It’s bad enough when clinicians can get sued over a bad root canal or a misdiagnosis. But malpractice suits can get downright absurd when the physician isn’t doing healthcare but deathcare, surgically harming and destroying an otherwise healthy, innocent, human being. If the surgeon fails to complete the abortion the mother is left with a living, and likely mutilated, baby, like some live-action guilt trip constantly reminding her that she tried to kill her baby. The psychological and emotional trauma for the mother is bad enough with the abortion and it could be even worse if the fetal victim carries the physical scars of a botched abortion for the rest of his or her life. Of course, the physician looks like a hack if he botches such a straightforward procedure as abortion.
7. Redundancy: Infanticide is already illegal
Seventh, perhaps the most rationally compelling reason democrats offered for their vote is that there are already laws against infanticide. Indeed, there are. Perhaps the most famous one, passed in 2002 is the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (HB 1275). But, one of its founding authors, Dr. Robert George, says the 2002 bill “has no teeth,” since all the enforcement measures were struck from the bill, watering it down till it was just an ineffectual symbol. It lacks any language about punishments, reporting, and oversight. Not surprisingly, it’s never been used in prosecuting anyone for infanticide. Dr. Larry Cates explains the simple reason: “No one is so naive as to think there is reliable voluntary reporting of live births in the present climate.”
Plus, the 2002 bill does not specify abortion-survivors even though they constitute a special case. Clinical conditions cloak abortions in secrecy. As long as there is no required reporting, no mandated punishment, and no explicit enforcement, clinicians have no compelling legal interest to protect the life of children who survive abortion. Quite the opposite, they have a strong motivation for infanticide, preferably without letting the mother know they botched the abortion in the first place. She paid to get rid of a child, so that’s what she gets. Any failed procedure is an open door for a malpractice suit.
8. Euthanasia/Eugenics: Put them out of their suffering.
Eighth, this vote also exposed how abortion-choice ideology flows seamlessly into euthanasia (“mercy killing”) and eugenics (selective breeding). Defenders of late-term abortion have often resorted to euthanasia and eugenic-abortion to justify killing unwanted children-in-utero. Fetal abnormalities, handicaps, and in the case of abortion-survivors, severe injury, can put children in a great deal of pain, sometimes for the rest of their lives. But those lives are still not our possession to destroy at will. And both euthanasia and eugenics are “playing God.” Plus, they reek of “ableism.”
By the way, there’s a straightforward way to reduce all suffering and eliminate all birth defects, diseases, and deformities from the population. Just kill everyone. It’s no more reasonable to apply that vicious logic in smaller doses – killing only some people. Even if euthanasia and eugenics were bolstered by good intentions they are still bad ideas. The road to hell is equally paved with bad ideas and good intentions.
9. Symbolism: Republican anti-abortion grandstanding
Ninth, perhaps senate democrats considered this bill to be more symbolic than practical. It has become a rallying cry for pro-life conservatives to show their support for children inside and outside the womb. But, even if this bill is symbolic, it still symbolizes the humanitarian and life-affirming culture we should all uphold, regardless of our political stripes. Plus, this bill isn’t merely symbolic since there’s a substantial number of abortion survivors (see #10 below). If they are too injured to survive for long, this bill would still ensure they receive comfort care to reduce their suffering (without artificially hastening their death). And if the child might survive, this bill would ensure they get reasonable care just like any other human patient would receive. This bill promotes equal opportunity and equal access, regardless of disability or circumstance. Children deserve our loving care.
10. Rarity: These cases are so rare, we don’t need a law for it.
Tenth, some sources tried to minimize this problem claiming it’s so uncommon that this bill would be a wasted effort. Late term abortion is so rare, according to the Wall Street Journal, that only 1.3% of abortions happen after 24 weeks, so the chances of a child surviving a late-term abortion are vanishingly small. But, there’s a problem with that number. “1.3%” sounds like an inconsequential number, but with roughly 1,000,000 total abortions per year, 1.3% is still 13,000 abortions. If even 1% of those result in live births, by accident, then that’s 130 children who would have been protected by this bill.
To put that in perspective, imagine if a Republican banner issue like the border wall led to the deaths of 130 unclaimed immigrant children. Now imagine that Republicans had just voted against the most basic medical care for those suffering children. We’ve already seen capital hill democrats rally around the health and family concerns for undocumented children. And the death toll hasn’t come close to 130.
But studies have shown that the estimated 130 children is probably far too small. When there’s a fetal anomaly, and the abortion is after 16 weeks, as many as 1 in 30 abortions resulted in a live birth, and after 23 weeks, it’s 1 in 10 abortions. By this measure, failed abortions generate as many as 900 live-births per year.
In countries with socialized medicine – which are more likely to keep exact records for the sake of Government oversight – the UK reported 66 abortion births back in 2008 and Canada reported 491 abortion-surviving births in 2013. In the U.S., undercover investigators have documented abortion-providers admitting that children sometimes survive abortion after a failed abortion and are left to die from neglect.
11. Cognitive Dissonance: Harmonious Wrongs Sound Better
Perhaps the saddest and most contemptible reason for voting against the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is that it harmonizes with radical abortion-choice ideology.
Cognitive Dissonance refers to that discomfort people feel when experience disagreement in their beliefs and/or behaviors. We desperately want to resolve that conflict so our beliefs and behaviors can all agree with each other. For Democrats, abortion-choice policy is a gateway to cognitive dissonance. Unrestricted abortion access has been a growing banner for the Trump-era Democrat party, but to make that policy fit with Democrat ideals they will have to surrender any fundamental commitment to:
- Racial equality – “unrestricted access” allows race-based abortion
- Gender equality – “unrestricted access” allows sex-selective abortion
- Anti-Ablism – “unrestricted access” allows ability/handicap-based abortion.
- Anti-Abuse – “unrestricted access” allows late-term abortions after the point when children-in-utero can feel pain.
- Anti-Torture/Cruel-and-Unusual harm – “unrestricted access” permits late-term dismemberment abortions.
- Anti-Eugenics – “unrestricted access” allows killing “defective” babies so they never grow up and reproduce.
- Anti-Euthanasia – “unrestricted access” allows “mercy-killing” so the child never has to suffer the pain of a cleft palet, a club foot, or any other birth defect, injury, or developmental disorder.
- Anti-death penalty – abortion administers a capital punishment without any capital crime; it’s the death penalty without due process, criminal conviction, or even any moral wrongdoing on the part of the victim.
- Fetal heartbeat or brainwaves – the right-to-life cannot begin at the fetal heartbeat or first brainwaves since those begin around week 6 of pregnancy.
- Viability – the right-to-life cannot begin at viability, since that’s around 21-22 weeks.
- Fetal-pain – the right-to-life cannot begin at the moment when the child can feel pain (conservative estimates place this at 8-20 weeks) since they can feel pain in-utero.
Capping it all off, the Democrat “no” vote is a stark reminder that the birth-canal does not magically confer some new life, or new humanity, on the child. For the children in question, birth is an arbitrary dividing line between viable humans in the womb and viable humans out of the womb. If it’s legal to kill child-in-utero at 40 weeks gestation, just before delivery, then it’s ghoulishly consistent for abortion doctors to commit negligent homicide towards a feeble, mutilated, abortion-survivor at 22 weeks. The mother wanted to get rid of her baby, so that’s what she gets.
Voting “No” on the abortion-survivors act is consistent with the Democrat pillar of liberal abortion-choice policy. But it’s a stark contradiction with purported Democrat values of compassion, empathy, humanitarianism, and equality.
A Crisis of Conscience
Democrats stand at a crossroads. Liberal Abortion choice policy threatens to split the party wide open, exposing gross betrayal of the party’s humanitarian values with a litany of evils (incl., infanticide, child abuse, and ableism). But, the party can’t solve this problem without difficulty. They are close comrades with liberal-feminism and are financially entrenched within the abortion-choice lobby. This tension puts a big question mark on the Democrat party. What do they value more: robust humanitarian ethics, or unrestricted abortion-access?
As long as Democrats suppress this crisis of conscience, stifling their cognitive dissonance, we can expect them to keep celebrating radical abortion-choice policy even to the point of voting down by bills protecting born children.
But I suspect many Democrats are genuine humanitarians. If Democrats are not just exploiting emotions to win political games, if they are willing to earn their virtues before virtue-signaling for political points, if they are serious about their humanitarian values even to the point of breaking ranks with their party, then they will have to match their politics with the humanitarian values they so loudly proclaim. Voting “No” on this bill leaves Democrats dangerously exposed. Now, they have to explain away their refusal to protect these living, breathing, post-birth children from infanticide.