Sasse to introduce bill to protect abortion survivors in wake of Virginia legislation

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., plans to introduce Monday evening a bill that would penalize doctors and medical professionals who do not provide medical care to infants who survive abortions.

Coming on the heels of the controversial comments made by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam over a late-term abortion bill in the state, Sasse is looking to use Congress’ Rule 14 process, to bypass the normal committee consideration of a piece of legislation and bring the bill directly to the Senate floor.

“We're talking about fourth trimester abortion - or what anyone in the normal world calls infanticide,” Sasse said on the Senate floor last week when discussing his Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

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He added: “We're not talking about some euphemism, we're not talking about a clump of cells. We're talking about a little baby girl whose been born and is on a table in a hospital or a medical facility and then a decision or a debate would be had about whether or not you could kill that little baby.”

Sasse, one of the most vocal pro-life Republicans in Congress, said he hopes to get his bill passed by a unanimous voice vote.

“On Monday evening, I’m going to be asking unanimous consent--for senators to come to the floor,” Sasse said, according to the Catholic News Agency. “I’m going to ask all 100 senators to come to the floor and be against infanticide. This shouldn’t be complicated.”

Sasse's bill already has the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who co-sponsored the legislation and publically questioned why any lawmaker would vote against this bill.

“What could be more unanimous than this: That what medical professionals owe every single newborn American citizen, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, is attention and care -- not neglect, and certainly not violence.," McConnell said. "Frankly, it is harrowing that this legislation is necessary."

The Virginia governor made his comments during an appearance on a local radio station to discuss The Repeal Act, which seeks to repeal restrictions on third-trimester abortions.

Virginia Democratic Del. Kathy Tran, a sponsor, sparked outrage from conservatives when she was asked at a hearing if a woman about to give birth and dilating could still request an abortion.

“My bill would allow that, yes,” she said. Existing state law does not put an absolute time limit on abortions and Tran's legislation does not alter that, but it does loosen restrictions on the need to get additional certification from doctors.

The bill was tabled in committee last week.

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Northam, a former pediatric neurologist, had been asked about Tran's comments and said he couldn’t speak for her, but said that third-trimester abortions are done with “the consent of obviously the mother, with consent of the physician, multiple physicians by the way, and it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities or there may be a fetus that’s not viable.”

“So in this particular example if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. 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.”

The effort in Virginia follows New York passing a bill last week loosening restrictions on abortion, as New Mexico, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington also pass new laws expanding abortion access or move to strip old laws from the books that limit abortions.

Speaking on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino” last week, Sasse called Northam’s comments “morally repugnant” and argued the Democratic governor should “get the hell out of office” if he doesn’t support protecting the life of a child who survived an abortion.

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“The comments the governor of Virginia made were about fourth-term abortions,” Sasse said on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino.” “That’s not abortion, that’s infanticide.”

Shortly after making his comments on the radio show, Northam became embroiled in a scandal over a photo on his medical school yearbook page that showed what appeared to be a man in blackface and a second person cloaked in Ku Klux Klan garb.

The scandal began Friday when The Virginian-Pilot released the photo from Northam's 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.

Northam quickly apologized for appearing in a photograph, but by Saturday, he reversed course and said the racist photo on his yearbook profile page did not feature him after all. The Democratic governor said he had not seen the photo before Friday, since he had not purchased the commemorative book or been involved in its preparation more than three decades ago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.