By Paul Stark
On Feb. 25, Minnesota’s two U.S. senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, joined 42 other senators to successfully block legislation to protect newborn babies who survive abortion.
The legislation in question, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 311), requires that babies born alive in the context of abortion be treated with “the same degree” of care that would be given “to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”
The bill only concerns the treatment of these already-born, living human infants. It doesn’t affect abortion in any way. Nor does it affect a woman’s pregnancy or her health care in any way.
Before casting her vote against advancing this measure, Tina Smith spoke on the U.S. Senate floor to express her opposition. We reproduce the full transcript of her remarks (taken from the congressional record) below. We do this because the remarks are flagrantly dishonest and call for correction.
Here’s what Smith said:
Madam President, I rise to join Senator Murray and my colleagues in standing up for doctors and patients in my home State of Minnesota and across the country.
S. 311 puts Congress in the middle of the important medical decisions that patients and doctors should make together without having political interference. It would compel physicians to provide unnecessary medical care. It would override physicians’ professional judgments about what is best for their patients, and it would put physicians in the position of facing criminal penalties if their judgments about what is best for their patients are contrary to what is described in this bill.
Colleagues, let me be clear. For women, this is a healthcare issue, not a political issue, and this bill, I fear, interferes with the doctor-patient relationship, which should worry us all. We can all agree that people deserve the best medical care based on their individual needs and their doctors’ best medical advice. This is how our medical system is supposed to work—physicians and patients making decisions together that are based on patients’ individual needs.
Everybody is different. For example, any oncologist will tell you that each cancer patient’s treatment is different. Treatment plans depend on the type of cancer and how advanced the cancer is. Decisions about cancer treatments also depend on each person’s age and lifestyle and individual circumstances. The same is true when it comes to pregnancy. Any obstetrician will tell you that every pregnancy is different and that when complications arise, they can completely change the course of treatment. In that moment, women and their families and their doctors are the only ones who are able to make decisions about what is best for a woman and her pregnancy.
Think about what this means in real life. In August of 2016, Tippy, who is from Minnesota and has agreed for me to share her story, was pregnant and, with her husband, went to their 20-week ultrasound appointment. They were excited because they thought they were about to find out the gender of their new baby, and they had already bought decorations for the gender reveal party. Instead, Tippy and her husband got devastating news from that ultrasound. Their baby, a boy, had stopped developing properly and would not survive. They would never get to meet him and never get to hold him. The ultrasound revealed not only the tragic news about this much wanted child but also showed a dangerous condition that threatened Tippy’s own health. Tippy’s placenta was enlarged, and to continue her pregnancy would risk the health of her reproductive system and her ability to have future children of her own.
Tippy, with her family and her doctor, made the difficult decision to have an abortion in order to save her reproductive system. Because she was able to make that medical decision, she was able to have another baby a year later. Tippy and her husband are today the proud parents of an 18-month-old child. When Tippy and her husband made their decision, it was based on guidance from her doctor and what was right for them and the family they hoped to have in the future.
They didn’t need politicians to be looking over their shoulders in the doctor’s office and telling them what to do. None of us in this body should be in the business of interfering in that doctor-patient relationship. We don’t tell oncologists how to treat their patients; we don’t tell emergency room doctors how to save lives; and we shouldn’t tell women’s doctors how to take care of their patients.
Colleagues, that is what this bill does. It would give politicians in this room the power to make medical decisions for women and their families. This bill intimidates providers and forces physicians to provide inappropriate medical treatment even when it is not in the best interests of their patients or their families.
Colleagues, we should treat women with respect. Decisions about women’s healthcare aren’t different from decisions about men’s healthcare, so why are we treating women differently? This legislation, if it were to become law, would put doctors in an untenable position: Do they follow the law or do they follow their code of professional ethics?
Colleagues, let’s get out of the business of dictating medical care for women. Let’s continue to trust women and their doctors. I urge my colleagues to oppose this legislation.
I yield the floor.
These comments don’t accurately describe the bill, and if Smith has read the bill, she knows it.
Why Smith’s remarks are thoroughly dishonest
Start with the story of Tippy, a woman who had an abortion. Smith tells this story even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with the legislation. The only way it could be relevant is if Tippy’s baby was born alive. In that case, the bill says the child should be treated like other premature infants rather than discriminated against merely because of the circumstances of her birth. But that equal treatment wouldn’t prevent Tippy from having the abortion in the first place. It certainly wouldn’t prevent doctors from caring for Tippy in whatever way they thought best.
The rest of Smith’s speech is no better. She says that “for women, this is a health care issue.” How? A woman’s health care doesn’t require the denial of health care to someone else.
Smith says that the bill is about “dictating medical care for women.” Again, how is it about that? Smith says we should “treat women with respect” and rhetorically asks, “Why are we treating women different?”
Well, we’re not.
If Smith were sincere, these comments would be completely baffling. Could Smith actually believe that the fate of a separate and already-born child falls within the domain of the mother’s “health care”? Is a newborn infant a part of her mother’s body? No one believes that because it’s nonsense.
Smith says the bill pertains to “decisions about women’s health care.” The bill actually pertains to “decisions about whether to deny proper care to individuals who are not women.” What Smith is doing here is called lying.
Regarding doctors, Smith claims that the bill would “compel physicians to provide unnecessary care.” No, it wouldn’t. The bill doesn’t specify the care that is appropriate in any given situation. It simply says that physicians can’t treat certain babies differently just because their mothers had abortions. (Or is Smith suggesting that any care for a baby who survives abortion is “unnecessary”?)
Smith says that the bill would “override physicians’ professional judgments about what is best for their patients.” It would only do this if physicians’ “judgment” is that they should abandon, neglect, or kill their patients. Smith claims that the bill would force doctors to choose whether to follow the law or to follow “their code of professional ethics.” What code of ethics requires discriminating against babies who survive abortions? If that’s the code embraced by Smith (a former Planned Parenthood executive) and others from the abortion industry, then the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is desperately needed.
Read the bill yourself
On Feb. 25, Tina Smith voted against providing appropriate medical care to living human infants who are fortunate enough to survive abortion. Presumably, she doesn’t want to acknowledge or defend this deeply unpopular position. So she pretended the bill is about something else instead. She gave a 700-word speech without ever mentioning the human beings who are the sole focus of the legislation.
We encourage Minnesotans to read the text of Smith’s speech about the bill. Then read the text of the actual bill. This is all public information.
Anyone can see the truth for themselves.
Tina Smith chose to lie, and lie extravagantly, and then hope that most people won’t notice.