By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
Democratic leaders in the Senate blocked a bill Feb.25 that would criminalize doctors who failed to provide medical support to infants born after a botched abortion, prompting an outcry from pro-life members of the party.
The vote, which fell primarily along party lines took place Monday and was largely in response to legislation that was proposed, though later nixed, in Virginia, which would have allowed for doctors to refuse to provide care.
Although three Democrats voted in favor the legislation, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act failed to reach the 60 votes it needed to become law, with 53 votes in favor of the legislation and 44 opposed to it.
Kristen Day, who is a Catholic and serves as executive director of Democrats for Life, took to Twitter to condemn the vote and praise the Democratic senators who voted for the measure.
“Sorry we couldn’t convince more Democrats to do the right thing,” she wrote. “A big thank you to Senators Casey, Jones and Manchin who are the only Senate Democrats who can now say ‘healthcare is a right for all not a privilege for a some.’”
The failed vote comes at a time when a new national poll reveals an increase in the number of self-identified pro-life Democrats.
The poll, which was released on Monday by Marist Polling and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, shows a jump from 20 percent to 34 percent over a one-month period.
(The Knights of Columbus are a principal sponsor of Crux.)
“There has been a significant increase in the proportion of Americans who see themselves as pro-life and an equally notable decline in those who describe themselves as pro-choice,” said Barbara Carvalho, director of Marist Poll.
Steve Schneck, the former Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America and who was an advisor to President Barack Obama’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, also took to Twitter to voice frustration at the divide over abortion within the Democratic party, which he argued prevents it from accomplishing its broader policy goals.
“Were abortion no longer the major issue between the parties, Dems could form a super-majority party that could control government for a generation on issues of social justice, ending economic inequality, investing in infrastructure, climate change and promoting diversity,” he wrote.
During his State of the Union address earlier this month, President Donald Trump vowed to pass such legislation that would require that doctors provide medical care for children born after failed abortions.
“To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb,” he said during his remarks.
Senator Ben Sasse, who proposed the legislation, has called the bill an infanticide ban. Earlier this month, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas and head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) denounced the practice as such and issued a statement decrying Congress for not passing the legislation by unanimous consent.
“The United States Senate had an opportunity to unanimously declare to the nation that infanticide is objectively wrong. That they failed to do so is unconscionable,” he said. “No newborn should be left to suffer or die without medical care. It is barbaric and merciless to leave these vulnerable infants without any care or rights. Congress must take up and pass this bill and ensure that the legacy of Roe v. Wade does not extend itself from killing unborn children to killing newborn babies.”
During Monday’s vote, all six of the Democratic Senators currently running for president in 2020 voted against the legislation, prompting many observers to believe that abortion debates will again surface as a contentious issue during the next presidential election.