by David Closson
February 26, 2020
Yesterday, the United States Senate voted on two significant pieces of legislation: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Although a majority of senators supported the bills, both fell short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture (i.e., end debate and move to a vote on the bill) and overcome a Democrat-led filibuster.
The Senate voted 53-44 on the Pain-Capable cloture vote and 56-41 on the Born-Alive cloture vote. The votes were largely along party lines. Two Democrats (Casey and Manchin) voted in favor of Pain-Capable, and three (Casey, Manchin, and Jones) voted in favor of Born-Alive. All Republicans voted for Born-Alive, while two Republicans (Collins and Murkowski) voted against Pain-Capable. The three Democratic senators currently running for president (Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren) were not present for the vote, though all have voted against both measures in the past.
From a Christian worldview perspective, the Senate’s inability to pass these pieces of common-sense legislation represents a massive moral failing. Unfortunately, opponents of the legislation—including the abortion lobby—launched a massive misinformation campaign to deny the need for these bills.
First, they denied scientific evidence that babies in utero can feel pain at 20 weeks. Doctors understand this scientific reality, which is why they administer pediatric anesthesia during fetal surgeries. This reflects an understanding that fetal surgeries have two patients: the mother and the child.
Moreover, the legal framework under Roe v. Wade allows abortion up to the moment of birth. Currently, unless individual states take legislative action to restrict abortion later in pregnancy, abortion on demand is legal through all nine months of pregnancy. According to FRC’s new pro-life map, 22 states allow abortion on demand right up until birth. The United States is one of only seven countries in the world (including North Korea and China) that allow abortion after 20 weeks.
Considering these facts, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is a necessary bill, and the Senate’s failure to pass it reflects a callous and cruel disregard for the dignity and value of human life.
Second, opponents of Born-Alive denied that infants can be born alive following an abortion procedure and claimed the bill was a solution in search of a problem. However, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2003 and 2014, at least 143 infants were born alive after an abortion procedure and later died. Moreover, only eight states require reporting data on infants who survive abortion, meaning the available data is almost certainly an underestimate. FRC has identified at least 170 additional born-alive abortion survivors, beyond the 143 abortion survivors reported in the CDC’s death statistics. This means there are, at an absolute minimum, over 300 cases of infants surviving an abortion.
Born-Alive explicitly requires health care practitioners to exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to an infant who survives an abortion as they would for any other baby born at the same gestational age. To reiterate, children who have already been born are the focus of this legislation. Thus, this bill is not even about abortion; it’s about born-alive infants!
Moreover, the legislation would create criminal penalties for any health care provider who fails to render medical aid to infants born alive and for any health care facility that does not report a failure to provide care. Although a 2002 federal law defines born-alive infants as full persons, there are currently no provisions in the law to hold abortionists accountable for killing or denying medical care to infants who survive abortion.
The failure to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act amounts to a moral dereliction by every senator who voted against it. The fact that 41 senators could not take a stand on infanticide is horrifying.
A person’s worldview has consequences. In the political arena, this is certainly true; a legislator’s worldview provides the framework for his or her policies and political positions. Yesterday, a minority of United States senators disclosed a worldview with a deficient moral framework when it comes to caring for the most vulnerable members of society. The worldview divide in the Senate on this issue could not be starker, as evidenced by yesterday’s votes.
The Trump administration revealed its own worldview with the issuance of a statement of administrative policy shortly before the Senate’s vote. In part, the statement said: “Our most helpless Americans cannot protect themselves from pain or from those who would callously allow them to die. The government, therefore, has a compelling responsibility to defend the rights and interests of these babies, including to be free from excruciating or unnecessary pain. All babies have the same dignity. They should not have to endure pain, and they should receive critical life-saving care regardless of whether they are born in a hospital, at home, or in an abortion clinic.”
Christians should pray for every senator who voted yesterday. We should thank God that most senators voted to protect babies who feel pain and babies who are born alive following abortion procedures. We should also grieve that so many senators lack the compassion to stand up for children who need their help. We should lament their decision to vote “no,” and commit to praying that their hearts and minds will change.