The U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation that would provide protection for all infants born alive and limit abortions after 20 weeks.
The two bills, the Born Alive Infant Survivors Protection Act (S. 311) and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 3275) were widely supported by Republicans, but a motion to move to a vote on both bills was blocked by most Democratic senators.
60 votes were needed on both bills, but they only received 56 votes and 53 votes, respectively.
On the Democratic side, Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) all supported S. 311, while only Casey and Manchin supported S. 3275.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) both opposed S. 3275, but supported S. 311 for born-alive infants.
The three senators running for president, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) did not vote, but all have previously opposed the bills.
Both of the bills have been introduced before and have met similar fates on the Senate floor.
“While Republicans and Democrats disagree on a range of issues, this should not be one of them. If we have one shred of our humanity left, we ought to agree that protecting human life is essential. This should have been a simple vote for every single member of this body,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) after S. 311 failed to pass last year.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a similar statement after Democrats voted against an earlier iteration of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in 2018: “Today, Senate Democrats continued their tradition of neglecting moral responsibility and blocked legislation that would put an end to abortions of babies older than five months and provide protections for unborn children capable of feeling pain. I am extremely disappointed with today’s vote.”
The Born Alive Infant Survivors Protection Act
The Born-Alive Infant Survivors Protection Act (S. 311), sponsored by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), would require health care practitioners to treat any child that is born — including, but not limited to, a child who survives an attempted abortion — with the same degree of care as any human being.
Specifically, the bill states that medical professionals must “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age,” and “ensure that the child born alive is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.”
Doctors or abortion providers who fail to comply with the bill would be fined or imprisoned, and any who intentionally try to kill a child who survives an abortion would be punished “for intentionally killing or attempting to kill a human being.”
Furthermore, under the legislation, a mother of the child would be entitled to file a civil suit against the doctor or abortion provider failing to comply with the bill.
In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which clarified that under every federal law, the terms “person,” “human being,” “child,” and “individual” include “every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.”
The new law goes a step further and ensures that there are penalties for any medical professional who does not treat an infant born alive with the dignity and care of a human being.
Several states have passed legislation creating similar enforcements, but the bill in the Senate would create a mechanism at the federal level to enforce the already excepted policy.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S.3275), sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), limits abortions performed on unborn children older than 20 weeks, similar to current law in place in Texas.
Graham’s bill is based on the claim that, “Pain receptors (nociceptors) are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body and nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and subcortical plate by no later than 20 weeks after fertilization.”
Exceptions for the limitation under the legislation are provided when the life of the mother is in danger and in cases of rape and incest.
Like the other legislation, this bill would also create provisions to protect infants who survive an attempted abortion. Doctors or abortion providers that fail to comply with the requirements would be fined or imprisoned.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.