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 SasseSwing-state Democrats see trouble in proposed pay hike House Dems move to give lawmakers a pay increase Conservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries 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: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Chris Murphy may oppose bipartisan health bill unless it addresses ObamaCare 'sabotage' Key senators release bipartisan package to lower health care costs MORE (D-Wash.), who argued that U.S. laws already prohibit infanticide and warned that Republicans were misrepresenting the bill. 

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"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 HawleyIs Big Tech biased? Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns Bipartisan senators to introduce bill forcing online platforms to disclose value of user data 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.