Every senator seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination voted to deny care to newborns who survive abortion.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) all voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act on Monday evening. Their votes put them at odds with not just the general public, but Democratic voters. A vast majority of voters, including those who identify as pro-choice, support providing care to newborns who survive abortion; 70 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents, and 86 percent of Republicans back the policy, according to the McLaughlin & Associates poll commissioned by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
The bill would have required doctors to provide care for infants who survive late term abortions, rather than letting those born alive die on the table. A 2016 study posted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that 60 percent of babies born at 22 weeks gestation—what is commonly seen as the borderline of viability—were able to survive when they received "active care" from doctors. Pro-life activists say they plan to make the vote a centerpiece of the 2020 campaign. Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles project, said the vote cleared up the party's abortion ideology, moving the needle far beyond the "safe, legal, and rare" rhetoric once championed by Bill Clinton.
"Their refusal to protect the lives of newborn babies ought in any sane political climate to immediately disqualify them not only from the White House but also from holding political office altogether," he said. "By standing with radical pro-abortion activists and against the majority of Americans, Democrats have handed President Trump a significant advantage heading into 2020."
The Trump administration supported the bill. It released a policy statement ahead of the vote, saying the legislation would "prevent infanticide" and "ensure that the life of one baby is not treated as being more or less valuable than another."
"The bill draws a sorely needed bright line of protection around abortion survivors by requiring that they be given the same level of care as any other premature infant," the administration said. "A baby that survives an abortion, and is born alive into this world should be treated just like any other baby."
The bill did garner bipartisan in the 53-44 vote, as Sens. Bob Casey (D., Penn.), Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), and Doug Jones (D., Ala.) joined Republicans, though that was not enough to pass the 60-vote threshold to advance the legislation.
The 2020 Democratic candidates voted in favor of the position outlined by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in a radio interview about legislation defending abortion.
"The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable," Northam said. "The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother."
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said that the 2020 Democrats failed a vital test by toeing the party line at the expense of newborns. She said voters were "horrified by infanticide." She said Trump had distinguished himself from his potential opponents by speaking out against Northam, and pledged to "go on offense to hold Democratic presidential contenders accountable for their extremism and for trampling the will of the American people."
"When forced to take a position on the record, not a single one of the top Senate Democrats running for president in 2020 could muster the basic decency to outlaw infanticide," she said in a statement. "President Trump's pro-life leadership is obviously resonating with the public and could not present a clearer contrast to Democrats' extremism."
While the vote failed in the Senate, Republicans are pushing similar legislation in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats. A vote there will also put potential 2020 contenders, such as Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), on record about whether they support caring for newborns. March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said it is important for politicians to spell out for voters where they stand on the issue.
"We look forward to a vote in the House of Representatives so that Chamber can get on record as well," Mancini said in a statement. "Anyone who lacks the basic level of human compassion needed to vote in favor of this should quickly find another job."