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Senators to cast show votes on anti-abortion bill after manufactured ‘infanticide’ controversy

A vote for the "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act" is scheduled for Monday evening.

Photo of Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Photo of Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate will vote on a bill Monday evening that is premised on the false assumption that infants are routinely born alive after abortions and that providers are murdering them afterwards.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scheduled a vote for Sen. Ben Sasse’s (R-NE) Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, following a manufactured controversy over bills in New York and Virginia that codify abortion rights, but that Republicans have slammed as “infanticide.”

Sasse’s bill criminalizes abortion providers by fining or imprisoning them up to five years if they don’t provide “the same degree of professional skill [or] care” or intentionally kill a child “born alive.” The bill uses legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002 as the basis for the definition of “born alive.” The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, or S. 311, is sponsored by 49 Republican senators.

It is unlikely to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to move forward.

In a press statement, Sasse said his bill simply asks abortion providers to provide quality care to all infants. The Heritage Foundation, a supporter of the bill, maintains that federal law “insufficiently protects infants who survive an abortion procedure.”

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But the bill isn’t rooted in science or medicine, nor does it aspire to resolve an existing problem. The bill presumes infants are regularly being born after botched abortions and the providers who perform these procedures are murderers.

Firstly, the vast majority of abortions are performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In addition to being one of the safest medical procedures, medication or aspiration abortion during the first-trimester almost always effectively terminates a pregnancy. Secondly, abortion providers and clinic staff are the ones actually in danger, with multiple murders carried out by anti-abortion activists over the years.

A recent example of a failed abortion suggests anti-abortion laws led to a situation in which a woman wasn’t able to effectively terminate her pregnancy. The woman traveled hundreds of miles to the provider, a Planned Parenthood affiliate, which she is now suing for medical negligence due to its failure to terminate the pregnancy by medication abortion. However, the details in the lawsuit are “curious,” the Guttmacher Institute’s Elizabeth Nash told the Daily Beast, referring to peculiarities in the plaintiff’s claim that restrictive state laws prevented her from seeking an abortion closer to her home.

Moreover, Sasse is capitalizing on a manufactured controversy over a New York bill recently signed into law that codifies the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade. In so doing, he mischaracterizes the bill, saying in his press release that it “repealed protections… for an infant born alive during an abortion.”

In reality, New York lawmakers removed abortion from the criminal code, as the state had decided to criminalize the medical procedure before the historic Supreme Court decision in 1973. Lawmakers also created a new section within public health law, solidifying the right to abortion up 24 weeks and access thereafter strictly in cases of fetal non-viability and to preserve the health or life of the pregnant person — as Roe already permits.

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The reason New York lawmakers decided to pass the Reproductive Health Act is because the public is concerned the Supreme Court will overturn Roe given that President Donald Trump appointed two very conservative justices.

“It is frustrating that our Senators continue wasting their valuable time even considering medically irresponsible bills like Senator Sasse’s. This bill interferes with the patient-provider relationship and threatens physicians with criminal penalties,” said Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Member Dr. Kristyn Brandi in a statement.

“Meanwhile, debate surrounding this bill has created a dangerous platform for disseminating misleading and dishonest information about abortion and the health professionals providing abortion care,” she added.

The bill was first introduced in 2015, and has since been introduced annually as a way for Republicans to show solidarity with the anti-abortion movement. A nearly identical version championed by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who recently resigned after being accused of sexual harassment, passed the House in 2015.