Archbishop Naumann calls Senate rejection of pro-life bills ‘appalling’

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Updated Feb. 28

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — By blocking two pro-life bills from going to the floor of the U.S. Senate for a vote, senators “failed to advance two critical human rights reforms that most Americans strongly support,” the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee said late Feb. 25.

Earlier that day, the Senate voted on motions to advance the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S. 3275, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, S. 311, sponsored Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska.

Largely because of “nearly unanimous Democratic opposition to the measures,” as National Right to Life noted, neither measure received the 60 votes needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and advance to a vote on passage.

The Pain-Capable bill, which would protect unborn children from late-term abortions, failed to advance by a vote of 53 to 44.

The Born-Alive bill failed to advance by a vote of 56 to 41. It would prohibit infanticide by ensuring that a child born alive following an abortion would receive the same degree of care to preserve her life and health as would be given to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.

“It is appalling that even one senator, let alone more than 40, voted to continue the brutal dismemberment of nearly full-grown infants, and voted against protecting babies who survive abortion,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“Our nation is better than this, and the majority of Americans who support these bills must make their voices heard,” he added in his statement.

On Feb. 28, the House failed to advance its version of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act by voting down a proposal to amend another piece of legislation to include it. The pro-life bill’s supporters, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, proposed including it in H.R. 2339, the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019. But this procedural vote failed 187 to 220.

H.R. 2339 — a multipronged approach to addressing youth tobacco use considered by many to be an “epidemic” — passed in a final 213-195 vote. In supporting the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said that “big tobacco is an assault on the health and well-being of American children.”

In a statement Feb. 28, Archbishop Naumann noted the U.S. Senate three days earlier “tragically failed” to advance its version of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, and “today, the U.S. House of Representatives shamefully followed suit.”

“The Born-Alive bill simply and rightly provides additional protections to ensure that newborn babies who survive an abortion attempt are given the same care as any other baby and are not left to die or directly killed,” he said.

“Americans should be outraged that our U.S. Congress cannot pass a law to ensure that newborn babies are not vulnerable to infanticide,” Archbishop Naumann added. “We will not and cannot stop pressing Congress to do the right thing and pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.”

In other reaction to the House action, Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, thanked McCarthy for “his brave leadership today in forcing a vote on the floor of one the most pro-abortion House of Representatives in history. ”

“It is deeply saddening that anyone would vote against such basic protections for the most vulnerable among us” contained in the Born-Alive bill, she said noting this year’s March for Life featured two speakers “who shared their own stories of survival after botched abortions.”

“We will continue to advocate for the discharge position to force more votes on this important piece of legislation so that constituents know where their representatives stand on this common sense piece of legislation,” she added.

Earlier in the week in reaction to the Senate votes, Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said in a statement: “These bills would have protected very developed, living unborn children who can feel pain and those babies who are born alive following an abortion who are often allowed to die from neglect.”

“Shame on pro-abortion Democrats for not being willing to even protect living babies that survive abortion or to protect late-term babies who feel the excruciating pain of abortion,” she added. “Their constituents will want to know why they are willing to allow these horrors to continue.”

Jennifer Popik, National Right to Life’s legislative director, said that in the eyes of the law, “babies born after an abortion are considered separate individuals … and every effort should be made to preserve their lives.”

“Babies capable of feeling pain are considered by the medical profession to be a ‘second patient’ and should be treated in the law as the pain-capable human beings that they are,” she added.

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, and other pro-life leaders praised Graham and Sasse for sponsoring the bills and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, for setting the vote on the measures for Feb. 25.

“You would think that those elected to public service would know the difference between serving the public and killing the public,” Father Pavone said in a statement. “With few exceptions, that is apparently not the case among Democrats in the U.S. Senate, as once again, a largely party-line cloture vote failed to advance two key pro-life bills.”

In pushing back against the bills, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and other Democrats said the Republicans were “fabricating an infanticide narrative,” when infanticide is already illegal in the U.S.

Sasse has noted several times that in 2002, Republicans and Democrats worked together to ensure that children born alive are recognized as persons under federal law. “But, unfortunately,” he said, “federal law does not criminalize the denial of care to babies who survive an abortion.”

In a Feb. 27 statement Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, of the Knights of Columbus, called it disappointing that neither Senate pro-life bill advanced, especially when for more than a decade the Knights’ polling “has shown that both Democrats and Republicans support substantial restrictions on abortion.

“In fact, a majority of Republicans and more than four in 10 Democrats support banning abortion after 20 weeks,” he said. “There is a bipartisan consensus on this issue among Americans, so it is doubly unfortunate that it continues to be viewed as partisan by some lawmakers who are not heeding the voices of their constituents.”

“The Knights of Columbus urges Congress to protect the right to life, and remains committed to speaking out on behalf of the unborn and highlighting this national consensus,” Anderson added.

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