30

The U.S. Senate voted in February 2019 to block the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which in the words of the bill itself would prohibit:

a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.

Fox News reports that the bill was blocked by Democrats in the Senate, including all of the Democrats currently running for president in 2020 (I could not find any coverage of this vote on CNN). The Fox News article mostly discussed the Republican support for the bill, but it does have some information about why Democrats opposed it:

Opponents, noting the rarity of such births and citing laws already making it a crime to kill newborn babies, said the bill was unnecessary. They said it was part of a push by abortion opponents to curb access to the procedure and intimidate doctors who perform it, and said late-term abortions generally occur when the infant is considered incapable of surviving after birth.

“This bill is just another line of attack in the ongoing war on women’s health,” New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said on the Senate floor.

...Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., objected to Sasse's bill, saying the legislation was unnecessary and amounted to a political stunt.

However, the article also recalls recent actions by Democrats such as Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran, the latter of whom sponsored a state bill to allow third-trimester abortions and the former of whom endorsed it by saying

"When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of, obviously, the mother, with the consent of the physicians, more than one physician, by the way," Northam said. "And, it's done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that's non-viable."

Northam continued: "So, in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother. So, I think this was really blown out of proportion."

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act seems to have been introduced at least in part in response to the suggestion that a live infant who survived a late-term abortion might not be resuscitated.

If Democrats at the state level are introducing legislation to allow late-term abortions then why are Democrats at the federal level claiming that late-term abortions are so rare that this regulation of such abortions is unnecessary? Is this a just a disconnect between Democrats at the state and federal levels?

I'm also not sure what Senator Shaheen's comment about "women’s health" has to do with the bill, since the law deals with infants who have already been born. Additionally, the law would prohibit prosecution of the mother who sought the abortion and allow the mother to obtain "appropriate relief" in a civil action against the physician who violated the law (e.g. "statutory damages equal to 3 times the cost of the abortion or attempted abortion").

Have any senators who voted against the bill provided a detailed argument for their opposition to the bill beyond the sound bites quoted above?

  • 9
    Lots of comments deleted. This is not the place for a pro-choice vs. pro-life debate. Comments should be used to help to improve the question, not to debate its subject matter. For more information on what comments should and should not be used for, please check the help article about the commenting privilege. – Philipp Feb 27 at 14:19
15

C-SPAN is a good source for getting direct quotes from senators. You can find footage from Feb 25th here: https://www.c-span.org/congress/?chamber=senate&date=2019-02-25

Two Democratic senators, Shaheen from New Hampshire, and Hirono from Hawaii spoke briefly. Here are some direct quotes summarizing what they said, then the giant block of text transcript for their full speech is below.

My interpretation of what the senators said: basically, this bill isn't really necessary and it will probably force the shutdown of some women's health providers similar to other recent legislation.


Senator Shaheen says this is a continuation of attack on women's health:

And so we're seeing that this bill is just another line of attack in the ongoing war on women's health

And it interferes with a woman's right to choose:

[the bill will] interfere with the dr.-patient relationship and impose new obstacles

And that it introduces a chilling effect and adds additional legal concerns:

it intimidates doctors with the threat of criminal liability for performing safe and legal abortion

,

have a chilling effect on the ability of women to access the services

,

sets a dangerous precedent for women's comprehensive health care by installing new uncertainty and risk of criminal liability in the process for late-term abortions


Senator Hirono says this is uneccesary:

this bill is a solution in search of a problem.

,

it is and has always been a crime to harm or kill newborn babies

,

[the bill's purpose is to] inflame the public, shame women, and intimidate health care providers

Echoes senator Shaheen, that this will reduce available medical care:

(quote within quote from Hawaii state legislature) this law may actually reduce the number of health care providers, not just the surgeons, but anesthesiologists, nurses, mid-wives, office staff willing to provide this care. But, again, that is the actual intent of this bill

That this is a continuation of right wing attacks against abortion (she specifically mentions Whole Women's Health versus Hellerstedt and calls out the intent to disregard actual medical safety with the only goal being to shutdown woman's health providers)

the threat to women's reproductive rights is intensifying in states and courtrooms all across the country

,

The more than 20 other abortion cases making their way through the federal court are incredibly high. Any one of them would provide the opening for the united states supreme court to finally fulfill the right-wing goal of overturning Roe v. Wade.

,

I've learned over the years that battles we fought so hard to win never stay won. It's up so all of us to stay engaged and keep fighting for our constitutionally protected rights


Transcript

Here's the full transcript of what the two senators said. I'm only including this to provide a bit more context for the above quotes. The text is copied from C-SPAN transcript, which is automatically generated using speech-to-text software. I fixed the case, added paragraph breaks, and cleaned up a few small typos, but the content should be more or less the same.

Senator Shaheen (New Hampshire) begins 5:02:27 PM

I rise in strong opposition to the legislation that you have author. It would interfere with the dr.-patient relationship and impose new obstacles to a woman's constitutionally protected right to make her own decisions about her reproductive health. Regardless of what the intent of the legislation is, the fact is the way it is written, it intimidates doctors with the threat of criminal liability for performing safe and legal abortion. It will have a chilling effect on the ability of women to access the services they need in the united states.

We must always remember that abortions that are performed later in pregnancy are often -- are most often done as t result of severe fetal diagnoses and the serious risk that that pregnancy poses to the life of the mother. And let's be very clear. This isn't a decision that any woman or family wants to be in the position to make. It is tragic and it is heartbreaking, and efforts to political size the trauma of women and families who have been forced to make this decision is really shameful, and it sets a dangerous precedent for women's comprehensive health care by installing new uncertainty and risk of criminal liability in the process for late-term abortions, this legislation increases the risk that women will not be able to get the medical care that they need when their pregnancy poses a risk to their lives.

This bill ignores those important realities in what appears to be an attempt to score political points with antichoice groups. Again and again at every turn we have seen this administration and our republican colleagues push forward policies intended to threaten access to abortion care. Just last week the trump administration cut off critical family planning resources for family planning clinics that offer information and referrals for women seeking to obtain legal abortions. And if you want to prevent abortions, you want to make sure families have access to family planning. We know that's an important way to reduce the number of abortions in this country. And so we're seeing that this bill is just another line of attack in the ongoing war on women's health. Now, more than ever, we need to stand up and help protect women's health care and make sure that abortions remain safe and legal. I urge my colleagues to oppose this legislation and its consideration on the senate floor. Thank you. I yield the floor.


Senator Hirono (Hawaii) begins 5:05:54 PM

Thank you. Mr. President, I'd like to first thank senator murray for her steadfast leadership in the fight to protect women's health care and for arranging this time for us to speak this afternoon.

The legislation we're debating today is just the latest salvo in the far right-wing assault on a women's constitutionally protected right to an abortion. With all due respect to my colleague from Nebraska who introduced this legislation, this bill is a solution in search of a problem. Contrary to what the proponents of this bill argue, it is and has always been a crime to harm or kill newborn babies. And people guilty of this crime can already be charged and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Let's be clear. The senate isn't debating this legislation today because there's an epidemic of abortions in this country. There isn't one.

I can hardly say it because it's really not happening and so therefore this bill is a solution in search of a problem.

Instead, we're indulging the majority's use of the false of a premise to inflame the public, shame women, and intimidate health care providers. When you strip away the ultra conservative rhetoric, you're left with a very simple argument from supporters of this legislation, that the moral judgment of right-wing politicians in Washington, D.C., should supersede a met professional's judgment and a woman's decision.

Conservative politicians should not be telling doctors how they should care for their patients. Instead women, in consultation with their families and doctors, are in the best position to determine their best course of care.

In talking to health care providers in Hawaii, I've heard how this legislation and other bills like it in states across the country could force them to provide care that is unnecessary or even harmful to patients. The hawaii section of the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists made this point persuasively in testimony made to our state legislature committee earlier this month. In the born alive legislation heard in the Hawaii state legislature, which didn't make it out of committee, by the way, the group of doctors wrote, and I quote,

we are physicians who provide compassionate evidence-based care. By criminalizing health care providers, this law may actually reduce the number of health care providers, not just the surgeons, but anesthesiologists, nurses, mid-wives, office staff willing to provide this care. But, again, that is the actual intent of this bill. Reducing access to safe abortion care would threaten the health of women in hawaii. We are the physicians who care for patients when they find out that their very wanted, very loved baby has severe feet -- fetal anomalies. Families sometimes provide the baby to palliative care rather than have their people suffer. These families face very difficult decisions about what their values are and what is best for their family, decisions that none of us has a right to make for them or judge them for. What they need in these moments is compassion and medley accurate -- medically accurate information from health care providers free from judgment and politics.

end quote. I couldn't agree more, and it's why I urge my colleagues to oppose this legislation. In just a few minutes I expect the senate will defeat this bill because it will fail to win the required 60 votes. Nevertheless the threat to women's reproductive rights is intensifying in states and courtrooms all across the country. Over the past few years states have enacted hundreds of laws that harm women's health and violate their constitutional right to an abortion. Mississippi enacted a prohibition on abortion about after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Ohio have passed laws banning dilation and evacuation, d.n.e., an abortion used usually during the second trimester. Indiana has a law that requires every woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound, talk about invasive, and mandated she wait 18 hours after the ultrasound to have an abortion. Louisiana passed legislation requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. this kind of law -- this law would result in only one abortion provider -- in only one abortion provider in a state of 4.7 million people. Advocates have recognized the harms these laws would have on women and have filed suits to block their implementation.

Several lower courts have ruled these restrictions unconstitutional and the cases are moving steadily through the courts of appeals en route to the supreme court. The fifth circuit, for example, will hear an appeal of a lower court's decision to block mississippi's 15-week abortion ban as well as an appeal from Texas to allow its ban on d.n.e. to go into effect. And part of Indiana's mandatory ultrasound, they have requested the supreme court to review this case. And the supreme court's temporarily stopped -- stoppage of Louisiana's so-called admitting privileges law from taking effect on a 5-4 vote. This is the law that I talked about before. This law would result in one abortion provider in a state of 4.7 million people. The fifth circuit will now hear an appeal on the merits of the law which is virtually identical to a texas law the supreme court struck down in 2016. That was only a few short years ago in the landmark Whole Women's Health versus Hellerstedt decision.

The more than 20 other abortion cases making their way through the federal court are incredibly high. Any one of them would provide the opening for the united states supreme court to finally fulfill the right-wing goal of overturning Roe v. Wade. It is with this central goal in mind that Donald Trump, majority leader McConnell, and complicit republicans in congress have been working to pack our federal courts with ideologically driven judges groomed and hand picked by ultra conservative organizations like the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.

Donald Trump has already confirmed 85 judges, including 30 to circuit courts and two -- two to the united states supreme court. These judges come -- comprise one-tenth of the federal judiciary with many more to come. Several weeks ago the senate judiciary committee voted 42 judicial nominees out of committee in one markup, and this 42 comprises an additional 5% of the federal judiciary. Less than two weeks ago Justice Kavanaugh issued a strong dissent in the supreme court's 5-4 decision to block Louisiana's anti- -- block Louisiana's antitrust law. Justice Kavanaugh essentially argued that the supreme court should disregard its own precedent from only two years ago, that is the Whole Woman's case that I referred to, just two years ago to allow the Louisiana law to take effect. His dissent signaled his strong antipathy for the woman's right to choose just as the dissent. His dissent as a justice this time demonstrated the emptiness of his promises to uphold supreme court precedent during his confirmation hearing. Justice Kavanaugh's promise then to -- now packing our courts. Offering little reassurance that nominees in fact will set aside their strongly held ideological views to be objective and fair judges.

Another case likely to make its way through federal courts in the months and years ahead is a challenge to the Trump administration's new gag rule. This rule prohibits doctors and other clinicians participating in title 10 family planning programs from referring patients for or even speaking about abortions, even if their patients request such information. Nearly 20,000 Hawaii residents receive reproductive health care through title 10. That's roughly the population of the city of Akapala in Oahu. It's an end run of congress after republicans have tried and failed dozens of times to end funding for planned parenthood. Planned parenthood provides health care for millions, millions of low-income women, men, and young people under title 10. Why do we persist -- why do the republicans persist in trying to cut funding for planned parenthood? Mr. President, the constitutional right of millions of women across the country are under serious and sustained attack. But even in these not normal times, I do see some hope. As state after state passes laws to limit access for women's right to choose, communities like Hawaii's are coming together to protect such access. Last week I joined activists and staff from planned parenthood of the great northwest and the Hawaiian islands as they opened their new medical center and administrative hub in downtown Honolulu. I was particularly energized see how many young people, women and men, were there and engaged in the fight to protect our right to choice. I've learned over the years that battles we fought so hard to win never stay won. It's up so all of us to stay engaged and keep fighting for our constitutionally protected rights. I yield the floor.

60

Technically infanticide is already illegal

Roe v Wade legalized abortion. Technically, you cannot abort a fetus once it has left the mother and Federal law prohibits it. Kermit Gosnell, a late term abortionist, was charged with (but not convicted of) one count of infanticide, an assertion by members of his staff (testifying against him) that some fetuses from late term abortions were still moving, and Gosnell murdered them.

Sen Tim Kaine stated

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is Catholic, released a statement after the vote saying he opposed the bill because GOP statements about it are "misleading."

"Congress reaffirmed that fact with its passage of the bipartisan Born-Alive Infants Protection Act in 2002. I support that law, which is still in effect. There is no need for additional federal legislation on this topic," Kaine said.

Democrats fear it will lead to undue abortion provider scrutiny

Sen Chuck Schumer said this

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on the Senate floor that the born-alive bill “is carefully crafted to target, intimidate, and shut down reproductive health care providers.” He also claimed the bill “would impose requirements on what type of care doctors must provide in certain circumstances, even if that care is ineffective, contradictory to medical evidence, and against the family’s wishes.”

Democrats may feel it might be part of a broader push

From Vox

The bill may also be part of a larger strategy by Republicans of focusing on very late abortions in order to drum up support among social conservatives. Trump referenced the issue in his State of the Union speech, saying, “we had the case of the governor of Virginia where he basically stated he would execute a baby after birth.”

  • 7
    Various comments deleted. Comments are not for political debates. The question asked for the arguments provided by the senators opposed to the bill, and that's what this answer provided. If you would like to discuss how strong or weak you consider these arguments, please do so on a more debate-oriented website. – Philipp Feb 27 at 14:22
10

As you described, there appears to be a disconnect in the late-term abortion views between the state-level Democrats in Virginia and federal-level Democrats in Washington. Interestingly, however, in reading your question, that's not the primary disconnect in my view.

The bigger and more meaningful division may be between the Republicans backing the bill (who are talking about newborn babies) and the Democrats (who are still talking about abortion). The bill does not appear to be about abortion, but about human beings outside the womb.

So, in consideration of that incongruity, and the fact that infanticide is already illegal, this bill may be pure political strategy by pro-life Republicans, who see an opportunity after the highly-publicized, "pro-infanticide" comments of Virginia's governor Ralph Northam and Delegate Kathy Tran, to portray Democrats as so extreme that they even support killing newborn babies. In short, this action may be no more than an effort to gain a political edge in the 2020 general elections.

Because this bill does not directly involve abortion, yet it is a tangential issue and the word "abortion" is in the title, it's politically difficult for Democrats, who receive major support from abortion advocates, to support it. In fact, for political purposes alone, it's very difficult for Democrats to support any legislation that (even remotely) suggests restrictions on abortion. If they don't oppose restrictions they risk losing campaign funding and sparking a primary challenge.

In terms of the Democratic presidential candidates, supporting this bill would be tantamount to political suicide. Any candidate who supports this bill would be moving themselves to the Right on the political spectrum, making themselves vulnerable to attack from the Left, where control of the nomination is believed to be. So any candidate perceived as anything less than extreme Left on this issue enables primary opponents to characterize them as weak on abortion and in alliance with Republicans. Either one of those attacks can be enough to sink a primary campaign. Therefore, all candidates must oppose the bill in order to remain... viable.

Because of the widespread support for abortion rights in the Democratic party, the presidential candidates face no risk at this stage in opposing this legislation. But in the general election, where the electorate is more centrist than primary voters in both major parties, this vote may come back to haunt the nominee. That seems to be the overall Republican play here.

  • Various comments deleted. Comments are not for political debates. The question asked for the arguments provided by the senators opposed to the bill, and that's what this answer provided. If you would like to discuss how strong or weak you consider these arguments, please do so on a more debate-oriented website. – Philipp Mar 3 at 20:03

protected by Philipp Feb 27 at 14:23

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