'You Can't Defend the Indefensible': Senators Clash in Contentious Infanticide Debate

February 25, 2020

Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) ripped his colleague Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) for describing a bill that guarantees medical care for newborns who survive abortion as "politically charged anti-choice legislation" during a testy exchange on the Senate floor Tuesday.

"There's nothing in the bill that's about abortion. Nothing. It's about infanticide. That's the actual legislation," Sasse said. "And you got 44 people over there who want to hide from it and talk in euphemisms about abortion because they don't want to defend the indefensible. Because you can't defend the indefensible. We're talking about killing babies that are born."

Durbin had attempted to shift debate from the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would mandate that doctors treat infants who do not die during abortion, to expanding Medicaid. Sasse accused Democrats, who blocked the same bill in 2019, of dodging the vote.

"These are about babies that are born that are outside their mother. What's actually happening is the senior senator from Illinois is wanting to obscure the debate because he wants to use euphemisms about choice so that you don't have to admit to the American public that what's actually happening on the floor today is that probably, like last year, 44 Democrats are going to filibuster an anti-infanticide bill," he said.

Durbin pushed back by saying infanticide is already illegal and that Sasse's bill is unnecessary.

Sasse said lawmakers need to take active measures to safeguard against passive infanticide in which newborns are allowed to die on the table. The subject became a lightning rod in 2019 when Virginia's Democratic governor Ralph Northam told a radio station that an infant born after a botched abortion could be "resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired."

The two pieces of legislation under consideration are Sasse's "Born Alive" act, which would mandate care for infants who survive abortions, and Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R., S.C.) "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," which would outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The bills are expected for a floor vote Tuesday evening.