The debate surrounding third-term abortions has resurfaced because of an effort in Virginia to expand women's access to late-term abortion when the pregnancy threatens their health, which has led to backlash at the national level. On Monday, Senate Democrats blocked Congress' latest anti-abortion bill put forward by Republican Sen. Ben Sasse in response to the Virginia proposal. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray explained why an “abortion survivors” protection act isn't necessary.
"We have laws against infanticide in this country. This is a gross misinterpretation of the actual language of the bill that is being asked to be considered and therefore, I object," Murray (D-Washington) told her colleagues on Monday, per The Hill.
Sasse's proposed bill would punish doctors who didn't "exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion," according to The Hill. It could still go up for a vote this week despite Democrats' opposition.
In Murray's view, though, Sasse's bill doesn't accurately represent what the Virginia late-term abortion bill is about. In the proposed Virginia legislation, women would still need a doctor to certify that a third-trimester pregnancy posed a threat to the mother's physical or mental health, although the regulations surrounding the procedure would be slightly looser than before.
While the narrative from abortion opponents on late-term procedures often describes them as one that essentially kills a living baby — infanticide, in a word — pro-choice advocates say that doesn't accurately depict the procedure. Late-term abortions are exceedingly rare, and women seeking them out usually do so because of fetal abnormalities that wouldn't allow the baby to survive out of the womb. Women who have undergone third-trimester abortions and spoken out about their experience tell stories of long-desired pregnancies that resulted in fetuses with fatal deformities, as The Guardian reported.
Sasse's bill, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, relies on what Rewire.News refers to as the "myth" that late-term abortions sometimes result in living infants that doctors then have to euthanize. This is entirely untrue, as Rewire.News explained.
“The point of this kind of legislation — it’s for shock value,” OB/GYN Diane Horvath-Cosper told Rewire.News. “It’s not medically accurate, [and] it’s not founded in any kind of actual science.”
Sasse argued that the Virginia late-term abortion bill would effectively legalize infanticide, adding that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's comments about the bill "endorsed infanticide." Northam, a pediatric neurologist, responded to the furor over his remarks by saying that any claims that he supported infanticide were a "disgusting" interpretation of his words.
“I have devoted my life to caring for children, and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting,” Northam said, according to The Washington Post.
Even if Sasse's bill does pass in the Senate over Murray's and her fellow Democrats' objections, the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives would likely prevent it from ending up on President Donald Trump's desk. However, the bill still propagates a misguided view of a procedure that women and their families turn to in tragic situations.