After the Senate’s failure to advance the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act on Monday, the widespread reaction among many Americans was a mix of disappointment and anger. Given the legislation’s relatively straightforward aim of protecting newborn babies born alive after a failed abortion, it seemed incomprehensible that any lawmaker could vote against it.
Yet, 44 Democrats did cast ‘nay’ votes, and their attempts to rationalize it since then have been informative, to say the least. In fact, when reviewed together, the Left’s main arguments for opposing the Born Alive bill are not only flawed – they are completely incoherent.
Let’s consider a few of them.
Following Monday’s vote, Planned Parenthood released a statement from its president, Dr. Leana Wen, accusing the legislation of being “aimed at shaming women and criminalizing doctors for a practice that doesn’t exist in medicine or reality.” Dr. Kristyn Brandi of Physicians for Reproductive Health took a similar line, telling Vox that “[t]he bill maligns and vilifies providers and patients to push a false narrative about abortion later in pregnancy.”
These statements reflect two of the most common arguments used against the Born Alive bill: that its aim was to intimidate and punish women and doctors, and that the scenario envisioned by the bill rarely or never occurs. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), for example, focused on the first point to defend her vote, arguing that the bill would “bully doctors out of giving reproductive care.” The New York Times, on the other hand, zeroed in on the second point, citing a claim that infants being born alive after abortions “hardly ever happens” in order to call President Trump’s tweet on the issue “misleading.”
A third argument against the bill was employed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who joined others insisting that it was unnecessary since it would merely “make something illegal that is already illegal.” Murray also inveighed against the legislation for being an unjustified “interference in women’s health care, in families’ lives, and in medicine,” using another typical pro-abortion attack line in the process.
While each of these arguments might in theory be persuasive on its own, together they give the distinct impression of a desperate attempt to defend the indefensible. Indeed, each of the points referenced above has a tendency to undermine each of the other ones.
Take the Planned Parenthood statement for example. If they are correct in arguing that the scenario of an infant surviving an abortion “doesn’t exist in medicine or reality,” then why would protecting against such an apparently impossible occurrence have the effect of “shaming women and criminalizing doctors”? Or consider Sen. Murray’s remarks: If the Born Alive bill is redundantly criminalizing an already criminal act, then how could it be an “interference” given that it doesn’t change anything?
In short, the Left appears to be simultaneously arguing that the Born Alive bill would not have any consequences -- and that it would also have many, terrible consequences. The whole situation would be downright laughable if the lives of newborn babies weren’t at stake.
And therein lies the point: the Born Alive bill has put the Left in an untenable position. For years, Democrats have skated by without having to answer for their radical position on abortion, instead taking advantage of Republicans’ traditional unwillingness to press on the issue. However, with perhaps the strongest pro-life president since Roe v. Wade now in the White House, the Left’s abortion extremism is finally being exposed for what it is – a defense of near-infanticide.
With 2020 around the corner, and polling showing the vast majority of Americans decidedly against them, Democrats may want to begin rethinking that position.
Frank Cannon is the president of American Principles Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @frankcannonAPP