Democrats Highlight Race, Downplay Need For Infanticide Legislation At Born-Alive Hearing

Mary Margaret Olohan on February 11, 2020

  • Democrats highlighted race and downplayed the need for infanticide legislation at a Tuesday hearing.
  • A born-alive act would require doctors to provide care for babies born alive after botched abortions.
  • “It ought to be against the law, and it is,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said.

Democratic lawmakers highlighted race and downplayed the need for infanticide legislation at a Tuesday hearing on a bill protecting infants born alive after botched abortions.

Lawmakers gathered Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, Republican-led legislation that would require doctors to provide care to babies who survive abortions.

Republican lawmakers, led by Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, emphasized the need for this legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing; however, Democratic lawmakers focused on infant mortality rates and racial biases in health care while suggesting that Republican lawmakers were pushing the bill out of anti-abortion bias.

“It’s pretty straightforward. Babies ought to get the care they deserve,” Sasse told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“This is about love. Love is stronger than power, and we will pass this bill,” he said.

Democratic California Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin highlighted a mother’s choice or infant mortality rates.

Durbin suggested that if lawmakers are interested in infant mortality, they should consider that “if you are an African-American infant born in America today, you are three times more likely to die in the first year of birth.”

Harris said that the bill intends to put the “priorities of politicians ahead of the priorities of medical health providers and professionals.”

“The United States is one of only 13 countries where the health outcomes for pregnant women are worse today than 25 years ago,” Harris said. “Black women are disproportionately affected.”

“So obviously we need to address the racial disparities of the outcomes but also the implicit and sometimes explicit bias that is real in the healthcare delivery system,” Harris added.

Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, discussed the number of maternal deaths that occur in the U.S. 

“It’s my understanding that some 700 women a year in this country die in pregnancy related complications, and that means each decade, 7,000 women in America die as a result of childbirth,” Feinstein said. “So this is a very complicated picture as to why women need abortions.”

“I don’t think we can avoid the scourge of having one of the highest maternal death rates in the developed world in this country. I very much regret that abortion has become such a political issue,” she added.

“I believe very strongly that we should control our own bodies in connection with our faith, medical ethics. This is just a very, very hard issue,” Feinstein said.

The Democratic senators also said infanticide is already against the law and that Republican lawmakers are using the born-alive act to further an anti-abortion agenda.

“What has been described by the senator from Nebraska is a horrible situation. There is no question about it,” Durbin said.

“It ought to be against the law, and it is,” he added.

The senator suggested that those who “want to take a look at this issue” should “go to your computer, go on the internet, and type in two words: Kermit Gosnell.”

“In the year 2013, this physician was found guilty of the very thing that Sen. Sasse has described this morning. Where is he today? Do we need a new law to go get him?” Durbin said, adding:

“No, you’ll find him in prison, serving a life sentence without parole plus 30 years. He broke the law by doing exactly what Sen. Sasse is describing. He’s in prison, and as far as I’m concerned, should be.”

A jury convicted Gosnell of first-degree murder in 2013 after he killed infants that survived his botched abortions by snipping their necks with scissors. He was also convicted for involuntary manslaughter after a woman died under his care.

Sasse did not refer to doctors actively killing babies born alive during botched abortions, but instead referred to the passive killing of unborn babies left to die after botched abortions and to the born-alive act, which would require doctors to administer care to babies born alive.

Durbin later compared the situation to a circumstance where doctors might be able to keep a parent’s, son’s or daughter’s heart beating, but “there’s no good ending” and the person “will not survive.” The lawmaker noted that a family member is required to make a decision on whether or not to end that person’s life.

“I’ve faced it. Many of you have faced it,” Durbin said. “It’s the hardest moment of your life and you’ll never forget it.”

“Who will make that decision — the family, the doctor or the United States Senate?” Durbin asked.

“We have to really acknowledge the obvious here,” he added. “There are moments when it isn’t an easy decision, it may not even be a medically precise decision, about how long that person is going to survive and a heartbeat. But you do what you think is right.”

Democratic Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono warned that the born-alive act contains “dangers” and follows upon misinformation about abortion from both the media and President Donald Trump’s administration. Hirono insisted that mothers who obtain late-term abortions are mothers who “want their babies.”

“Why can’t we understand that?” she asked.

“This morning we heard talk about the urgent need for a bill that bans infanticide and that Democrats are somehow standing in the way of such a ban,” Hirono added. “Let’s be clear, no one here is in favor of infanticide.”

“No one here believes in killing or harming infants. Infanticide is a crime, and it always has been,” she said, adding:

“This bill is the latest in a decades long effort by Republicans mainly to take control of women’s bodies and prevent us from exercising our constitutional right to make personal decisions, which include abortion in this country.”

Sasse noted to the DCNF that Hirono “decided that attacking strawmen was easier than opposing the medical experts and defending the indefensible.”

“A lot of what she said has nothing to do with the legislation, but she also said that we should be focusing on reducing infant mortality rates — and that’s exactly what the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection bill does,” he said in a written statement.

Sasse repeatedly emphasized that the hearing was focused on the born-alive act and on babies already born.

“Let’s not lose sight of what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about babies,” Sasse said during the beginning of the hearing.

“This hearing isn’t a debate about first-, second- or third-trimester abortions. This hearing is about making sure that every newborn has a fighting chance – whether she’s born in a labor and delivery ward or whether she’s born in an abortion clinic,” he continued.

Sasse underscored the point of the hearing again toward the end of the event.

“Just to underscore again what this hearing is about: Infanticide is indeed illegal in the U.S. and yet in half of the states there is no criminalization of walking away from the baby and allowing it to die by exposure,” he said. “So there is an active-passive distinction and there is a state-federal distinction, which are both pretty fundamental.”

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