On February 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing concerning the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a proposed law that threatens doctors with jail time for failing to provide medical care to live-born babies following unsuccessful abortion attempts.
By all expert accounts, live births following abortions are not actually a thing that happens, and according to attorney generals from around the country, not a single physician has ever been charged with or even suspected of denying medical care to a live-born infant after a botched abortion. Instead, the bill is a smear campaign meant to align abortion with infanticide in the public imagination.
The bill, sponsored by Nebraska Senator Bill Sasse, invents a problem that does not exist in order to vilify abortion providers and legitimize disinformation about the process. Written under the bad-faith assumption that abortion occurs just before or at the time of birth—again, untrue—supporters of the bill say it would prevent “infanticide,” which is already illegal. Last year, the bill failed to get the 60 votes required to move forward.
But now it’s being resurrected, and the revival of the bill seems to fit into a greater strategy, one that conflates aborted fetuses with prematurely born babies in order to demonize both abortion seekers and abortion providers. Last year, after announcing a vote on the bill, Mitch McConnel wrote an op-ed for the Kentucky Courier-Jornal that pretty well outlined the new tactic: “The American people deserve to know whether their senators stand with vulnerable children struggling for life.”
And in his State of the Union address, President Trump introduced a child born prematurely who is now thriving and then, seconds later, urged lawmakers to “pass legislation finally banning the late-term abortion of babies.” Megan McCain recently followed a similar line of argument, purposely lumping abortion in with infanticide on the View when she asked presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg if he would “be comfortable” with a person who wanted to “invoke infanticide after a baby was born.”
For all the current hand-wringing about physicians’ supposed lack of concern for infants, in 2002, Congress passed the Born-Alive Protection Act, which grants full legal rights to all live-born babies. In 2013, state attorney generals from around the U.S. all testified that they could not find a single case of physician infanticide following an abortion. Despite the fact that these unneeded protections already exist, the constant reintroduction of this proposed policy is handy—a way of propping up untrue stereotypes of abortion providers as maniacs.
In response to Trump’s message about banning late-term abortion in the State of the Union address, Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Action Fund, said “attack on abortion later in pregnancy is nothing but a cynical ploy to distract us from his true agenda—completely overturning Roe v. Wade and ending access to safe, legal abortion. The state of our union in 2020 is clear: Our freedoms are on the line like never before.”
And this resurgence of an unnecessary, already voted down bill is nothing but a play at distraction, intended to get the anti-abortion crowd riled up about non-existent infanticides, rather than a genuine attempt to provide medical care, which according to many Republicans seems to be a desperate right for fetuses and an expensive privilege for the already-born.