WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic senators blocked Monday a Republican bill that would threaten the imprisonment of doctors who would not try to save the lives of babies born alive during abortions. The move seemed doomed from the start, but offered the GOP an opportunity to appeal to conservative voters.
The vote was the last case in which Republicans tried to offend the issue and put Democratic lawmakers on abortion rights in an uncomfortable position. Supporters said the measure offered legislators a simple moral choice.
"I want to ask each of my colleagues if infanticide is acceptable or not," said the principle sponsor of the measure, Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
Opponents, noting the scarcity of such births and citing laws already making crime a crime of killing a newborn, said the bill was unnecessary. They added that it was part of the will of abortion opponents to restrict access to the procedure and intimidate the doctors who performed it, and indicated that the government was not going to do it. Late abortion usually occurred when the child was considered unable to survive after birth.
Sen. Patty Murray, a health democrat, said this measure would force women to accept "care that could go directly against your wishes at a deeply personal, often incredibly painful time in your life – because Washington politicians decided that their beliefs mattered more than yours. "
Senators voted 53 to 44 for the Sasse bill, seven out of 60 votes needed to end Democratic delay tactics to derail the measure.
The Democrats Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Doug Jones of Alabama and Joe Manchin of West Virginia were the only legislators to cross the party's borders while Democrats once again demonstrated that even in the minority they can derail abortion bills.
Several dozen House Republicans, led by minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Stood in front of the Senate during the vote, just as a contingent of Democrats in the House did the month last in a crucial vote on the end of government closure. Republicans control the Senate by 53 votes to 47.
President Donald Trump reacted to the vote as he headed to his Vietnam summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on Twitter: "We will remember this as one of the most popular votes. shocking from the history of Congress. If we all agree on one point, it's protecting the lives of innocent babies. "
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports the right to abortion, only 1% of abortions take place after 21 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions in recent weeks are even rarer.
Medical and abortion groups say it is extremely unusual for live babies to be born during late-term abortion attempts, which usually occur when the baby is extremely deformed or unable to survive after the birth. birth. In such cases, families sometimes decide to do the work to spend time with the baby before he or she dies.
"It only happens in cases where we know the baby will not survive, and we've already decided to just provide comfort to her so that parents can be with them," said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a member from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
If an infant is born alive during an abortion, the Sasse bill would require doctors to provide "the same degree" of care as for any birth. The baby should be immediately sent to a hospital.
Physicians who do not comply with these requirements and other medical staff who do not report violations may face fines and up to five years in prison. Physicians who intentionally kill a born child living after an abortion could be prosecuted under federal laws governing murders – potentially a death sentence or life imprisonment.
Republicans in the House run by Democrats intend to try to force the vote on a similar measure this spring. They will use a little-used tactic, a petition asking for the signature of most members of the House to succeed. The GOP should be well below the 20 Democrat supporters they need.
Republicans, eager to place congressional Democrats in an uncomfortable political stance, have been engaging in debate since its appearance earlier this year in Virginia and New York.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, spoke favorably in January of state legislation to relax restrictions on late-term abortions. He stated that a "discussion would ensue" between the doctors and the family on what to do in case of birth of an infant severely deformed or unable to live. Northam has since been under pressure to resign because of a racist picture in his 1984 yearbook.
Trump criticized a new abortion law in New York that allows the abortion of a viable fetus after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the mother's life is in danger – coding conditions specified by the United States. judgments of the United States Supreme Court.