WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB's) Committee on Pro-Life Activities described the U.S. Senate's failure to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act "appalling."
"Our nation is better than this, and the majority of Americans who support these bills must make their voices heard," Abp. Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas said in a statement posted on the USCCB website.
By blocking two pro-life bills from going to the floor of the U.S. Senate for a vote, the senators "failed to advance two critical human rights reforms that most Americans strongly support," Abp. Naumann said.
The Senate failed to advance the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 3275), sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 311), sponsored Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Feb. 25.
Sixty votes are needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate and advance a bill to a vote on passage. The Pain-Capable bill (S. 3275), designed to protect unborn children from late-term abortions, failed to advance by a vote of 53–44. The Born-Alive bill (S. 311), designed to 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, failed to advance by a vote of 56–41.
"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," the archbishop said.
Senator Sasse clashed with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois on the Senate floor before the voting after Durbin referred to Sasse's legislation as an "abortion" bill.
Sasse countered that his bill is "about babies that are born that are outside their mother," adding, "And what's actually happening is the senior senator from Illinois is wanting to obscure the debate because he wants to use euphemisms about choice."
"You can't defend the indefensible," Sasse said. "We are talking about killing babies that are born."
In arguing against the bills, Durbin and other Democrats accused Republicans of "fabricating an infanticide narrative," to which Sasse said:
We're talking about killing babies that are born ... That's the actual legislation we're voting on today in the Senate. That's what the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is. Is it okay in the eyes of the United States Senate for us to say, 'Well you can't actively kill the little baby, you can't take a pillow and put it over her face and smother her to death, but you can back away and kill her that way.'
In a statement titled "Once Again, the Party of Death is on Display," released after the voting, Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, said:
You would think that those elected to public service would know the difference between serving the public and killing the public. 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.
President Trump touted born-alive legislation last year, saying Democrats "don't mind executing babes after birth."
"This will be remembered as one of the most shocking votes in the history of Congress. If there is one thing we should all agree on, it's protecting the lives of innocent babies," the president tweeted after the vote.
In pushing back against the bills, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and other Democrats said the Republicans were "fabricating an infanticide narrative," when infanticide is already illegal in the United States.
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."
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins reacted to the rejection by saying:
Refusing to support a measure that would provide life-saving care to an infant who survives an abortion and is born alive is condoning infanticide. Continuing to allow this practice of actively or passively allowing born alive babies to die as Virginia Governor [Ralph] Northam has advocated is crossing the line from civilized to barbarous. The efforts in Congress to protect these babies shouldn't stop and voters have a moral duty to vote against those who condone infanticide.
Father Pavone and other pro-life leaders praised Graham and Sasse for sponsoring the bills and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for setting the vote on the measures for Feb. 25.
Pavone said that the objections of the senators who voted against the bills "defy both reason and morality."
Echoing Abp. Naumann's exhortation for Americans who support these bills to make their voices heard, Fr. Pavone predicted the dissenting senators "won't defy elections. The job of pro-life people now is to inform the voters on how their senators voted on these two bills, and then to vote the abortion extremists, i.e. the Democrats, out of office."
How senators voted on the measures can be seen on the Senate website.