Republicans are relying on long-debunked claims to stir anti-abortion sentiment and cut women off from health care.
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the latest bill designed to spread lies about later abortions. Sponsored by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), the "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act" is a solution in search of a problem.
The hearing itself was a tangle of lies directed at people who find themselves in incredibly vulnerable situations when abortion becomes necessary late in pregnancy.
Sasse's bill would "prohibit a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion." If practitioners fail to exercise the "proper degree of care" — something the bill does not define at all — they could face a fine and up to five years of prison time.
From the very start of the hearing, Sasse approached the matter in a disingenuous way. He said that the hearing "is not actually about limiting access to abortion at all" and was merely about making sure an infant "born alive" during a "botched abortion" is given the same care "that would be provided to any other baby at the same gestational stage."
However, the witnesses called by Sasse and his fellow Republicans nearly exclusively focused on lies and fearmongering about "infanticide" and implied that later abortions are murder.
One witness, Patrina Mosley of the Family Research Council, went so far as to say that later abortions are done because there is "something to be gained" financially. Jill Stanek, of the dark money-funded Susan B. Anthony List, went even further, saying that an abortion provider is "deciding the life or death of the baby" and is "invested financially."
Of course, none of these things are true, and claims about financial incentives were debunked via a comprehensive investigation years ago. But anti-choice activists still routinely insist later abortions are motivated by malice and profit.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, people seek later abortions out of need.
Erika Christensen, a patient advocate, testified at the hearing about her choice to have a later abortion. At 30 weeks, she and her husband learned that her fetus was not able to swallow and that fetal growth had stopped. Had she carried the fetus to term, she would have delivered a baby who couldn’t breathe and "there was no care or treatment available that would change that."
As a resident of New York, Christensen was past the gestational limit to have an abortion. She was forced to borrow thousands of dollars to fly to Colorado to see a specialist who could perform the later abortion.
Christensen was, in her words, "incredibly lucky" to be able to do that, but not all women are: "Terrible things can and do happen. We will never be able to regulate or legislate away bad pregnancy outcomes. What we can control are the laws that punish us for them or force us to make decisions we know are not best for us."
Sasse and his fellow Republicans at the hearing showed no concern for what is best for people who are pregnant and who may need to have an abortion later in pregnancy. They appeared far more interested in controlling people's bodies, banning the procedure entirely, and taking agency away from people who are pregnant.
But, as Christensen observed: "I believe that abortion-seekers are moral decision-makers. I believe each of our situations are unique. I believe that we are capable of making our own decisions."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.