Published February 27, 2020
Earlier this week, 41 Democratic senators successfully filibustered the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require doctors to provide standard medical care to infants who survive attempted abortion procedures.
Contrary to Democratic claims, the bill is neither unnecessary nor redundant. Abortion survivors are not a fiction invented by the pro-life movement. No law currently protects such infants. And the bill neither regulates nor limits abortion or women’s health-care options. All it requires is that doctors give “the same degree” of care to newborns who survive abortion that “any other child born alive at the same gestational age” would receive.
In more than a dozen states, it is not currently illegal for a doctor to allow a newborn who survives an abortion to die of neglect. Had Democrats not blocked it, this bill would have changed that.
Republicans hope that the outcome of this vote will sway some voters later this year, exposing Democrats’ radical commitment to the logic of abortion, which turns a blind eye to infants being allowed to die simply because they were meant to have been aborted.
One survey from March 2019 found that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe doctors should be required to care for infants who survive abortion. Another survey found even higher support: 82 percent said they oppose removing medical care from viable infants.
But will Americans ever find out that Democrats disagree with them? Given the way prominent media outlets have covered the born-alive bill, that seems unlikely — and that’s what Democrats are banking on.
Because the Senate voted on the born-alive bill on the same day as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, nearly every reporting article echoed Democratic talking points conflating the two bills and insisting they were both restrictions on abortion.
Here are a few sample headlines:
CNN: “Two abortion restriction bills that forced tough votes for vulnerable senators fail in the Senate.” Politico: “Anti-abortion bills fail to advance in Senate vote.” CBS News: “Two bills banning most late-term abortions blocked by Senate Democrats.” Newsweek: “Mitch McConnell faces backlash over bid to force Senate votes on anti-abortion laws.”
The content of most of these articles, and similar reports at other outlets, was even more inaccurate than the headlines.
The New York Times published an article that, as Ramesh Ponnuru has observed, got key facts wrong. It also framed the entire debate in Democratic Party talking points while offering only inaccurate strawman versions of the argument in favor of the born-alive bill. The Times’ congressional editor shared this article in a tweet claiming that the Senate bills would “curb women’s rights to late-term abortions.”
CNN, meanwhile, noted that the born-alive bill “would require abortion providers to work to ‘preserve the life and health’ of a fetus that was born following an attempted abortion.” The phrase “fetus that was born,” of course, refers to what most of us call “newborn infants.” CNN updated the story to remove the phrase this morning after two days of well-deserved, sustained criticism, including from Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) during floor debate over his bill.
CNN also sent a video-segment package on the born-alive bill to hundreds of local television stations across the country, insisting that the bill is a longtime GOP tactic, even though this is only the second time it has received a vote. It also falsely claimed that both bills are “anti-abortion” and asserted with no evidence that both Sasse and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who sponsored the 20-week ban, are facing tough reelection campaigns.
This type of routinely inaccurate coverage does a lot to explain why Democrats like Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) feel confident heading to the Senate floor to lie about the contents of the born-alive bill. Not to be outdone, NBC News published an op-ed by Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) packed with demonstrably false assertions about the bill.
It is understandable that Democrats would prefer to pretend that they were not opposing a bill that merely requires ordinary care for infants. Why would they admit the truth when every prominent outlet is ready and willing to run coverage twisting the contents of the bill and parroting abortion supporters’ own talking points?
If Americans remain in the dark about how radical Democrats are on abortion policy — and on offering standard care to all infants — it’s because that’s where media want them to be.
Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.