Washington Wednesday: The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday, the 27th of February. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. First up on The World and Everything in It: Washington Wednesday.

Recent days have seen a flurry of activity on the pro-life front. It began on Friday, when the Trump administration announced a final rule for the Title X family planning program. The new rule prohibits recipients of Title X funding from performing abortions.

You may recall last month Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy explained the nature of the problem in an interview here on WORLD Radio:

CASSIDY: There’s something that has arisen in the past where there’s co-location of abortion services and family planning. Now technically, Title X, say, Planned Parenthood is not supposed to to just be able to say, okay, abortion is family planning. You have an unplanned pregnancy, so walk down the hall. In reality they’ve been allowed to co-locate. And so although theoretically they are distinct, in reality that distinction seems to be blurred.

With Friday’s action, the Department of Health and Human Services created a bright line in the sand. If Planned Parenthood and other organizations want to continue receiving Title X funds, they can’t continue to perform abortions.

REICHARD: The next pro-life news came Monday. A Marist poll found Americans evenly split as pro-life versus pro-choice—47 percent to 47 percent.

A Catholic group funded that poll. But just last month a similar survey found pro-choicers ahead, 55 percent to 38 percent.

The number of Democrats who call themselves pro-life jumped from 20 percent to 34 percent.

Pollsters cited the recent national conversation around late-term abortion as the reason for the shift. Mallory Quigley of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List agrees.

QUIGLEY: I think that Americans nationwide have had a visceral reaction to the news coming out of New York and Virginia over the last month or so and as evidence by the Marist polling, opinions are changing… The U.S. is only one of seven nations to allow elective abortion after five months. And we’re alongside China and North Korea in that regard.

The third development came late Monday. The U.S. Senate voted on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. It would have mandated medical care for babies who survive botched abortions.

The bill needed 60 votes to end debate and come to the floor for a final vote. It got 53.  

Here now to discuss that vote is Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. He was the lead sponsor of the bill.

Senator, good morning.

SASSE: Good morning, Mary. Thank you for having me.

REICHARD: Well, the vote tally came in at 50 Republicans, three Democrats, seven short of what you needed. Was that about what you were expecting?

SASSE: I gotta be honest. Even though I knew there were a bunch of people who were going to vote against it, I really don’t understand anybody voting against a bill that condemns infanticide. I think it’s truly nuts.

So I think yesterday was a shameful day in the Senate and it took 60 votes to break the Democratic filibuster. We got 53. We actually had two people stranded on planes in a snowstorm. So we’re really at 55, and we need 60.

I think we need 100, because it shouldn’t be hard. It shouldn’t take political courage to say something as simple as a baby is a baby and every newborn baby deserves protection and medical care. So I think yesterday’s vote is truly stunning.

REICHARD: Back in 2002 the U-S Senate passed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act by unanimous consent. Your bill would have built on those protections, and obviously we can see this week’s vote shows the leftward veer of Democrats on abortion.

So I wonder: Where does this effort go from here?

SASSE: I believe in the long term that the pro-life movement is going to be successful, because we’re pro-baby, we’re pro-compassion, we’re pro-mom, and we’re pro-science. And the reason the pro-life movement is growing is because there’s more and more imaging technology available in the world and younger people are becoming more pro-life because they’re seeing more images of what happens in-utero.

And so many of us celebrate babies and life because we believe in human dignity and have thought about it at a philosophical level, but lots of folks are just starting to see 3D images as well, and when you see those babies you say, “Oh, actually, a baby’s a baby.” And there’s a moral intuition. There’s a logical argument as well. But there’s a moral intuition: “Hey, we need to provide care and protection for that baby.”

That’s true for broadly pro-life arguments, but in the case of born alive abortion survivors, we’re talking about babies that are on a table, crying, and gasping for air and struggling for life, and there’s a phenomenon out there called “backing away,” which is the way that these babies are killed when they survive a botched abortion is the doctor and the nurses present just back away from the table and allow the baby to die by exposure.

Obviously that’s a form of killing and we should be providing care for those babies. And I think in the long term that the pro-life side is going to win here.

REICHARD: This week a Marist poll found a big uptick in Americans who identify as pro-life—especially among Democrats. Is simply having this conversation moving the needle on abortion?

SASSE: I think it is. I heard from some moms in Nebraska who said to me, “I bet you’re disheartened by what happened in the Senate floor,” as the Senate fancies itself the greatest deliberative body in the world, and yesterday we didn’t have a lot of deliberation. We had a lot of euphemistic grandstanding and nonsense spouted that had nothing to do with our bill.

And one of these women from Nebraska said to me, “What’s happening in our town and in our neighborhood is a lot more kitchen table and kitchen counter conversations that are going to move in the direction of compassion and love and life.” And I think these women from Nebraska are right, that there’s going to be growth in this movement that continues because the conversation really makes it unavoidable. It makes it impossible to deny that that baby’s a baby.

REICHARD: Six Democratic senators who are running for president voted against your bill. To what extent do you think this might be a campaign issue in the 2020 election?

SASSE: You know, I’m new here. I’m one of eight people out of 100 people in the Senate who’s never been a politician before, so I don’t pretend to be any good at horse race prognostication, so to me this is not right versus left. It should be about whether or not you have a heart and care about kids. This should be way beyond politics.

But I do think it is interesting to note how nuts the pro-abortion lobby has become that it’s driven the Democratic party to a place where they couldn’t even distinguish between abortion and infanticide. There was a time when there were a whole bunch of pro-life Democrats in the party, both at the grassroots level and nationally among elected officials. And so the Democratic party’s compromise for a number of years was that they wanted abortion to be legal and safe but rare.

Today you don’t hear them talk about rare. The elected officials don’t. They often celebrate abortion as if it’s a good. And I don’t think grassroots Nebraska Democrats believe those kinds of things. The grassroots Nebraska Democrats want to condemn infanticide, and I think I find among young people — Republican and Democrat — in my state, a migration toward more pro-life people.

So I think that the national Democratic presidential candidates here are not just morally confused, I think they’re also politically confused. I think well over 80 percent of the public supports our bill, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. And I think these national Democrats are really confused by the echo chamber they’re listening to.

REICHARD: Senator Ben Sasse is a Republican from Nebraska. Senator, thank you for joining us today.

SASSE: Thanks for the invitation, Mary.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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