Cardinal Dolan decried the Senate’s failure to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, and called on senators to “rethink” their stance on late-term abortions.
The cardinal, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the vote “appalling” in a statement released late Jan. 29.
“The Senate’s rejection of this common-sense legislation is radically out of step with most Americans,” the statement added.
Although the bill received 51 votes, under Senate rules it needed 60 votes to end debate and move to a final vote. Three Democrats joined 48 Republicans in supporting the measure. The final vote was 51-46.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Donnelly of Indiana supported the bill, while Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine voted against it.
The House of Representatives passed the same bill Oct. 3. President Donald Trump said he would have signed the measure if it had passed both houses of Congress.
The legislation would have punished doctors who perform an abortion after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is threatened. Physicians could face up to five years in prison. Women seeking abortions would not be penalized under the bill.
The bill is based on the finding that an unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks of development. Similar laws are on the books in 17 states and three more states ban abortion after 20 weeks for other reasons.
Polling has found that a majority of Americans, including Democrats, supported such legislation.
Cardinal Dolan expressed concern that abortions carried out in the second half of pregnancy usually involve dismemberment of the unborn child and pose dangers to the mother.
“Furthermore, the United States is currently one of only seven countries that allows abortions beyond 20 weeks,” he said, naming Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore and Vietnam as the other six.
Pro-life advocates echoed the cardinal’s disappointment in the vote.
“Americans should be outraged that pro-abortion Senate Democrats refuse to protect unborn babies who can feel pain,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said in a statement.
“We will keep coming back to the Senate again and again until it passes this bill,” she said.
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, called it “a disgrace that our Senate has once again failed to pass a bill that reflects the hearts and minds of the national pro-life consensus.”
Trump said in a statement late Jan. 29 that “We must defend those who cannot defend themselves. I urge the Senate to reconsider its decision and pass legislation that will celebrate, cherish and protect life.”
Cardinal Dolan called the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, passed by the House Jan. 19, “common-sense legislation” that “offers a simple and widely supported proposition.”
“A child born alive following an abortion should receive the same degree of care to preserve her life and health as would be given to any other child born alive at the same gestational age,” the cardinal said in a Jan. 20 statement.
He praised the House for approving the measure with a bipartisan vote of 241-183. The lawmakers’ action came as 100,000 pro-life supporters gathered for the 45th annual March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
“I call on the Senate to pass this bill as well,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, or H.R. 4712, amends the federal criminal code to require any health care practitioner who is present when a child is born alive following an abortion or attempted abortion “to exercise the same degree of care as reasonably provided to any other child born alive at the same gestational age, and ensure that such child is immediately admitted to a hospital.” —CNS