Democratic senator Tim Kaine has been silent on whether he supports legislation to protect infants who survive abortion, but told a constituent he opposed weakening Roe v. Wade.
A constituent asked the Virginia senator whether he would support the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act after Gov. Ralph Northam (D.) endorsed withholding life-saving care to infants during a radio interview. Kaine, who has insisted on his personal pro-life beliefs rooted in his Catholic faith, dodged the question even as he acknowledged that the bill would only apply to abortion survivors.
"This bill would establish new requirements for health care practitioners in the case of a fetus who survives an abortion," he replied in a Feb. 12 letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "I support the right of women to make their own health and reproductive decisions. For that reason, I oppose efforts to weaken the basic holding of Roe v. Wade."
The landmark Roe v. Wade decision struck down state laws banning abortion in the first trimester, but added that the state could pursue restrictions after a baby has become viable in the womb. The Born-Alive Act sponsored by Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) only applies to babies outside of the womb, who are not only viable but living. The issue took center stage when Northam, a career doctor, said that an abortion survivor would be "kept comfortable," but would not receive care unless the mother allowed it.
"The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable," he 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."
A Kaine staffer told the Washington Free Beacon that the senator had yet to read the full bill or take a position on it. She emphasized that he "supports the existing abortion law in Virginia."
A Republican Senate staffer told the Washington Free Beacon that Democratic moderates would be essential to passing the legislation and building momentum to get it through the Democratic House of Representatives. The aide, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, called Kaine's description of the bill "next-level spin."
"All the bill does is make sure that a baby gets medical care when they're born. Even Senator Kaine's letter doesn't deny that, and it's not really clear how he's going to vote because the bill doesn't have anything to do with the basic holding of Roe or criminalizing women's decisions," the aide said. "This is a gut-check vote for a lot of senators who are being pushed to side against an 80-20 issue just to keep NARAL happy."
The Senate will hold a roll-call vote on the bill in an effort to force pro-choice politicians, especially self-described moderates such as Kaine, to put a voice to a radical abortion position. Denying care to survivors is wildly out-of-step with the sentiments of voters, including Democrats. Polls have shown that voters, including more than 40 percent of self-identified pro-choice individuals, support restrictions on late-term abortion. Support grew even higher for providing care to survivors, with 86 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of Democrats, and 75 percent of independents backing such laws, according to the McLaughlin & Associates poll commissioned by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
Pro-life groups say Sasse's bill will provide a clarifying moment for voters in America. Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project, said that special attention will be paid to the votes of Democrats representing battleground and red states. He said opposition to infanticide "isn't a polarizing issue—it's a landslide issue" that people of all parties support.
"Pro-abortion politicians have hidden behind nice words and deceptive practices," Schilling said. "Sen. Sasse is now forcing every Democrat to either vote for or against the most radical ‘abortion' procedure—infanticide, the murder of children who have already been born. Democrats in swing states should take note."
Maureen Ferguson, a senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association, said the vote has nothing to do with Roe. The absence of protections in federal law would only serve to kill infants.
"A senator who opposes the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, is voting to allow infanticide, which has no place in a civilized and compassionate society," she said.
The Senate will vote on the bill on Monday.