On Monday night, Senate Democrats blocked a bill introduced by Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) that would have strengthened protections for babies born alive after a failed abortion.

Known as the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, Sasse’s bill would require immediate transportation and admission to a hospital for any child who is born alive after surviving an attempted abortion. The bill would also create penalties for intentionally killing infants born alive.

Although the Bush-era Born Alive Infants Protection Act already stipulates in federal law that the word “person” includes “every member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any state of development,” the 2002 law lacks enforcement mechanisms and does not go as far as Sasse’s bill at imposing penalties on abortionists who intentionally kill or attempt to kill a baby.

Prior to requesting “unanimous consent,” which would have expedited the bill’s consideration, Senator Sasse explained what the bill was about. 

“In a few minutes the United States Senate is going to have an opportunity to condemn infanticide,” Sasse stated. “One hundred United States Senators are going to have an opportunity to unanimously say the most basic thing imaginable. And that is that it’s wrong to kill a little new born baby.”

“This debate is about infanticide and infanticide only,” he explained.

Sasse argued that recent events in New York and Virginia necessitate action at the federal level. Just two and a half weeks ago, New York passed legislation that stripped explicit protections for babies born alive following a failed abortion. In Virginia, just last week, a bill was introduced that would allow abortion up through birth. At the time, Democrat Ralph Northam, the now embattled Virginia Governor, praised the bill and appeared to endorse letting born alive babies die by saying, “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.”

Citing Northam’s unconscionable and horrifying remarks, Sasse argued that federal legislation is needed to protect babies born alive after a failed abortion.

But Senate Democrats disagreed.

Rejecting Sasse’s request for unanimous consent, Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat, argued, “We have laws against infanticide in this country. This is a gross misinterpretation of the actual language of the bill that is being asked to be considered and therefore I object.”

Although Democrats temporarily blocked the bill on Monday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Republicans can (and should) still bring up the bill for a roll-call vote which will put every senator on record (including those currently running for president such as Senators Booker, Harris, and Gillibrand) on whether they support infanticide. Even if Nancy Pelosi refuses to bring the bill to a vote in the House, it is important for Americans to know where their senators stand on an issue as basic as whether it is acceptable to kill newborn babies.

But regardless of the future of this specific bill, the message sent by Senate Democrats on Monday night is chilling and indicates a shockingly callous view of human life. By denying protections for little boys and girls who have survived an abortion, Democrats have sent a clear message that their priorities and loyalties are not with the vulnerable or oppressed (as they so often claim) but with the abortion lobby and Planned Parenthood.

By siding with the abortion lobby over the baby girl clinging to life on the abortionist’s table, Democrats have surrendered the moral high ground in the debate on human dignity. By capitulating to the political agenda of Planned Parenthood, Democrats have revealed that they value campaign contributions over protecting innocent human life. And by blocking legislation that would protect babies born alive, Democrats have demonstrated that even infanticide is not a bridge too far in their effort to force abortion-on-demand upon the American people.

From the perspective of the Christian worldview, the debate could not be clearer. Infanticide, the actual killing of newborn babies, should not be a political issue. Rather, infanticide and abortion must both be seen as moral issues that touch on the most basic questions of life and human dignity. The inability of so many politicians to stand up for society’s most vulnerable members shows how the deadly implications of the secular, materialistic worldview have permeated even conversations about the moral status of the unborn and newly born. Although science is clear that babies are fully human, many secular bioethicists deny personhood to the unborn by severing personhood from biology. The result is a society not only confused about when life begins but also unsure about what it means to be human.

The Judeo-Christian worldview opposes this dichotomizing of biology and personhood because it understands that people are wholistic beings made up of both body and soul. Unborn and newly born children are people who deserve love, safety, and security. Christians reject abortion and infanticide because we believe babies are made in the image of God and endowed with dignity and value. Thus, as divine image bearers, the unborn and newly born deserve protection because they are inherently valuable and precious to God. Moreover, as the “least of these” among us, they deserve protection from those who profit from their destruction.

If the United States Senate cannot summon the moral courage to criminalize infanticide, then America is worse off morally than many of us even imagined.

To learn more about the dangerous secular worldview undergirding the current push for infanticide, see Nancy Pearcey’s recent book Love Thy Body or watch her recent talk at FRC’s Speaker Series.