Cynthia M. Allen

When it comes to abortion, Congress is more extreme than most Americans

A pro-life demonstrator at the U.S. Supreme Court after the court struck down the Texas abortion law.
A pro-life demonstrator at the U.S. Supreme Court after the court struck down the Texas abortion law. TNS

I’m old enough to remember a time when people of differing ideological backgrounds could agree on some basic things — among them the idea that a child, even one born alive after an attempted abortion, deserved a chance at life.

Nothing about that notion is controversial, let alone political, yet a bill that would have very specifically protected children who survived an abortion failed to pass in the U.S. Senate on largely partisan lines. Only three Democratic senators broke the party line and joined every Republican present to support the measure.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act introduced by Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse — largely in response to comments made by embattled Gov. Ralph Northam in support of appalling abortion legislation recently introduced in Virginia — wasn’t an anti-abortion, anti-woman or anti-doctor bill, as its detractors tried to argue. It was legislation that sought to fortify our common humanity in the face of attempts to normalize the views of the pro-abortion extreme.

The bill would have required doctors to give the same care to infants who survive abortion procedures that they would give to any other infant. Hardly a contentious proposal.

And for the record, botched abortions aren’t an anomaly. The Centers for Disease Control reported at least 143 cases of infants surviving abortion between 2003 and 2014, and acknowledged that the total number was likely underestimated because many states don’t publish abortion data.

Florida does, however, and it reported 17 cases of abortion survivals between 2017 and 2018 alone. Those are the babies the law was intended to protect.

Yet the Senate’s failure to pass it signals something has shifted in the leadership of the Democratic Party; that it is now not only defending but endorsing the most extreme definition of abortion — a person’s value lies not in their very being, but in whether or not they are “wanted” by the people who conceived them.

It’s a disturbing approach to an issue that still divides the American public. A strange one, too, given some recent polling that suggests public opinion is moving in the opposite direction.

In the wake of New York’s new sweeping abortion law and Virginia’s consideration of a bill that would allow for elective abortions up to 40 weeks gestation, the American public appears to be having some heartburn about late-term abortion.

The rhetoric employed by supporters of both statewide measures employed a callousness toward the unborn usually reserved for the loudest voices in the pro-abortion lobby. Perhaps lighting up the Freedom Tower to celebrate a bill that, practically-speaking, decriminalizes fetal homicide, was a bridge too far.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Marist, which has been polling Americans’ attitudes on abortion for over a decade, surveyed over 1,000 adults in mid-February and found that for the first time since 2009, as many or more Americans identified as pro-life as identified as pro-choice.

But the poll’s most notable finding was that people who identified as Democrats, “specifically those under the age of 45, seem to be leading the shift: This month’s poll found 34 percent of Democrats identify as pro-life vs. 61 percent pro-choice. Last month, those numbers were 20 percent and 75 percent, respectively.”

That should suggest to Democratic Party leadership — including all of the presidential candidates in the Senate who voted against the “born alive” bill — that it may have overplayed its hand. The thrust of the Democratic Party may not be going the way of New York and Virginia, and doubling down on abortion extremism is not a way to win or retain voters.

True, it’s just one poll and polls are good for one thing — capturing the public sentiment of a moment in time. The good news is that this moment may represent an abortion tipping point for many Americans. Congress needs to catch up.

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