GOP fails to pass bill to put doctors in jail for helping women


It was a cynical move to restrict abortion access and criminalize doctors for using their best medical judgment.

Senate Republicans tried to pass legislation on Monday that would have threatened doctors with up to five years in jail for providing vital medical care to their patients.

Led by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and authorized by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the vote to consider the so-called "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act" failed to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to proceed, instead receiving 53 votes in favor and 44 opposed.

The bill, which Republicans have previously tried to pass in a cynical move to restrict abortion access, would have exposed doctors to criminal charges even if they are exercising their best medical judgment and working in the best interests of their patients.

It was a show vote, and the latest in a series of stunts from Republicans to put women at risk in an attempt to boost the party's failing legislative agenda.

Trump has attached himself to the issue, radically mischaracterizing Democrats who opposed the bill as supporting the "killing of newborn infant children" — echoing the extremist rhetoric of terrorists who have murdered doctors in the past.

The bill was opposed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women’s Association, and the American Public Health Association, who called it "a dangerous government intrusion into private health-care decisions."

"This legislation is based on lies and a misinformation campaign, aimed at shaming women and criminalizing doctors for a practice that doesn’t exist in medicine or reality," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Leana Wen in a statement.

The bill promotes an ugly right-wing myth that demonizes doctors by falsely claiming that infants are routinely "born alive" and then murdered after botched abortions. It threatens doctors with up to five years in jail if they fail to take such a theoretical infant to a hospital — even if it is not viable and has no chance of surviving.

The bill would require doctors to face unclear and uncertain regulations about what should be done in the midst of a medical procedure, and could force them to act against their best medical judgment. It could also force women in heartbreaking situations, such as those who need an abortion very late in pregnancy due to a deadly fetal anomaly, to endure even more trauma for no reason.

In his floor speech pushing for a vote on the bill, McConnell lied and said it was "a straightforward piece of legislation to protect newborn babies," using a well-worn conservative talking point to cover for an attack on women's reproductive rights.

But Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) rebuffed McConnell's falsehoods on the floor of the Senate by pointing out that the bill was "clearly anti-doctor, anti-woman and anti-family."

"If you're a medical provider, this bill would supersede your years of medical training and your oath to deliver the best possible medical treatment to your patients," Murray said. "It would apply a one-size-fits-all set of requirements that do not reflect the reality that every pregnancy is different. And it would subject you to criminal penalties if you choose to let medical standards, not politics, drive the care you offer your patient."

Murray also noted the bill's harmful impacts on women, who Republicans falsely claimed the bill would help.

"If you are a woman, this bill would mean if you are one of a very, very few women who needed an abortion late in pregnancy, you could be legally required to accept inappropriate, medically unnecessary care. Care that may directly conflict with your wishes at a deeply personal, often incredibly painful moment in your life," she explained.

Republicans were thwarted in their latest attempt to restrict women's rights and send doctors to jail for doing their jobs. But they are certain to try similar attacks in the future as they desperately try to hold on to their political power.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.