Let Them Live

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Senate is preparing to consider the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill that exposes Democrats’ commitment to the logic of unlimited legal abortion. The legislation would require doctors to provide ordinary medical care to infants who are born alive after an attempted abortion.

Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) reintroduced this legislation in January 2019, after Virginia governor Ralph Northam suggested that mothers and physicians may determine whether nearly aborted newborns should be left to die from lack of care, at least in some circumstances.

Last February, 44 Democratic senators tacitly agreed with Northam, voting to block the born-alive bill and its requirement that newborns be afforded “the same degree” of care that “any other child born alive at the same gestational age” would receive.

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The Democrats have presented flimsy rationales for their opposition.

They claim, first, that “born-alive” infants don’t exist, that attempted abortions never produce living infants. This is not the case, as we know from the woeful tale of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, whose murderous crimes against newborns were not illegal under federal law. Though data on born-alive infants are spotty, there is both anecdotal and reported evidence that infants do survive late-term abortion procedures with some regularity.

When proven wrong on this first point, Democrats pivot to the assertion that laws already exist to prevent infanticide. In the context of abortion, that is false. There is no federal law requiring doctors to provide life-saving care to infants who survive abortions. Only 33 states, at last count, have such laws in place. New York’s legislature last year repealed the state’s born-alive protections.

As a last-ditch ploy, both Democratic lawmakers and their media allies consistently refer to the legislation as “anti-abortion.” When they voted against it last year, several senators said the bill would place government between women and doctors, limiting health-care options.

But the bill doesn’t regulate when or whether either health care or abortion may be made available to women — it merely requires doctors to treat newborns who survive abortion the way they would treat any other newborn infant.

Anyone who deems the born-alive bill “anti-abortion” either hasn’t read the bill’s text, is willfully misrepresenting its provisions, or sincerely believes that the right to abortion encompasses the right to deny medical care to a newborn infant who was targeted for abortion.

That last point is the crucial one. Though Democrats are likely to succeed in blocking Sasse’s bill once more, this commonsense legislation will succeed in exposing the dehumanizing rationale at the heart of the argument for abortion.

If a pro-choice lawmaker supports this bill, as decency demands, he risks exposing the arbitrary nature of denying rights to a human being inside his mother and granting him rights the instant after birth. Lawmakers who oppose this bill maintain that the right to abortion includes the right to let an infant die of neglect if he or she was planned to have been killed a second before.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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