Senate Dems block Sasse measure meant to respond to Virginia bill

Senate Democrats blocked abortion-related legislation on Monday night in the wake of a political firestorm sparked by a Virginia abortion rights bill last week. 

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseIt's time to empower military families with education freedom Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lauds tariffs on China while backtracking from more MORE (R-Neb.) tried to pass legislation that penalizes doctors who fail to "exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion." 

But Sasse was blocked by Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe Democrats demand Trump officials withdraw rule on transgender health The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (D-Wash.), who argued that U.S. laws already prohibit infanticide and warned that Republicans were misrepresenting the bill. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"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," she said. 

Sasse's attempt to pass the legislation comes after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) provoked outrage among anti-abortion groups, GOP lawmakers and the White House over his comments about a bill that would have made it easier for women to get third trimester abortions if their health was threatened by pregnancy. 

"In Virginia, disgraced Gov. Ralph Northam tarnished the American idea of equality under law. He betrayed the universal truth of human dignity and he turned the stomachs of civilized people not just in this country but in every country on Earth," Sasse said. 

Kathy Tran, the sponsor of the Virginia bill, fueled the political firestorm when her comments acknowledging that the legislation would allow a woman who is dilating to request an abortion if a doctor determined that childbirth would impair her mental or physical health went viral.

Northam further inflamed tensions when he said on a local radio show that third trimester abortions are rare and typically occur when an infant is severely deformed or unable to survive after birth.

“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,” Northam said.

Republicans have lambasted Northam, who is also facing a separate scandal following a yearbook photo that surfaced Friday showing a man wearing blackface and another dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

"Is this really the social vision of today's Democrat party?" asked Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyRepublicans face critical test of integrity on drug price controls Hillicon Valley: Facebook releases audit on bias claims | Audit fails to calm critics | Federal agencies hit with fewer cyberattacks in 2018 | Huawei founder says company faces 'live or die' moment Facebook releases audit on conservative bias claims MORE (R-Mo.). "I can't imagine a vision less just or less consistent with the goodness and compassion of the American people." 

Sasse on Monday night warned that Northam "endorsed infanticide" and that Republicans would continue to push for either passage or a vote on his legislation. 

A spokeswoman for Northam told The Washington Post last week that Republicans were purposefully taking his comments about the abortion bill out of context. 

“No woman seeks a third trimester abortion except in the case of tragic or difficult circumstances, such as a nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities, and the governor’s comments were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances went into labor,” she said.