Ben Sasse’s "Born-Alive" Political Stunt

For seven years, the GOP won elections promising to repeal Obamacare. For over ten years, Republicans ran on promising to secure our southern border and ending illegal immigration. During the last two years, both promises were shown to be fraudulent. The Kabuki theater over Obamacare finally came to an end when the Republican Senate was unable to pass the same clean repeal bill it passed in 2015. Ever since Trump reached the White House, the GOP leadership in Congress has worked assiduously to block his wall and illegal immigration is, once again, reaching record levels.

Republicans, for the most part, would rather avoid talking about immigration or Obamacare. Their true love are tax cuts and wars. Unfortunately, both subjects are deeply unpopular with voters including among its own political base. That is why they had to run on fraudulent promises. Now that both Obamacare and illegal immigration are taboo subjects, the GOP has been forced to bring back an oldie but goodie: grandstanding on abortion.

NeverTrumper Senator Ben Sasse led the grandstanding by introducing the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act”. The legislation would have imposed fines and potential jail time for doctors “failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.” As expected, the bill failed to gather enough votes to overcome the Senate filibuster rule. As soon as the vote was over, president Trump led the charge to use the defeat to portray Democrats as sociopathic child killers:

Anyone who is remotely familiar with late term abortion practices knows that Sasse’s bill was nothing but a political stunt. Briefly, the first step in late term abortion is to stop the heart of the fetus (or baby if you prefer) to ensure that is it not alive during the procedure. The injection, known as feticide, is administered at least 24 hours before the still born is removed. Perhaps, when sonograms were not available it was possible for a fetus (baby) to survive a botched abortion. But with today’s technology, it is virtually impossible to miss detecting a heartbeat - and even if the doctor somehow manages to miss the heartbeat, it is impossible for the fetus to survive the removal procedure.

If Senator Sasse was really interested in saving the lives of viable babies, he would not have introduced such a narrow bill. He would have introduced legislation that required the delivery of a fetus once it reaches viability. If fetus is able to live outside the womb (albeit with medical assistance), the argument that a woman has the right to control her body is moot. The pro-choice argument “her body, her choice” no longer applies since her body is no longer needed. Instead, Sasse opted for virtual signaling and, unfortunately, pro-lifers followed his lead and basked in perceived moral superiority while denouncing the “evil baby killing pro-aborts” who opposed the bill.

The GOP has been talking out of both sides of its mouth for decades when it comes to abortion. They claim that their main objection to Roe vs. Wade is that it took the power to decide the abortion issue away from the states and the voters. Yet, the party constantly proposes bills at the federal level. If the Republicans were truly interested in returning the issue of abortion to the states, they should strip jurisdiction on the matter from the federal judiciary as my colleague David Smith has suggested. It may not be successful but at least it would be consistent with their claim that the issue belongs to the states.

Moreover, the timing of the vote is very telling. Fresh from failing to deliver on wall funding, the GOP had to find a way to distract its voters. The party leadership knew all along that Sasse’s bill was an empty gesture but it has provided the talking point “Democrats are baby killers” that will surely be used in the 2020 elections. Once again abortion will take center stage as the Republicans pretend to stand for “life”. Actually, Republicans only stand for life as long as the child is in the womb. They have zero problem killing born children with drones or starvation by imposing sanctions.

Perhaps, the more interesting aspect of this latest confrontation over abortion was the Democrats’ decision not to play along with the farce - a similar bill was passed in 2002. No doubt, some opposed it for purely ideological reasons but the rest opposed it for strategic reasons. The Democrats know full well Republicans are not serious about banning or restricting abortion - just like they weren’t serious about repealing Obamacare or ending illegal immigration. However, the Democrats still need the Republican Party to remain politically viable. After all, the GOP is the main obstacle standing in the way of a political party that truly represents the interests and concerns of the Right and one that will challenge the Left.