“This hearing is about making sure that every newborn baby has a fighting chance – whether she’s born in a labor and delivery ward or she’s born in an abortion clinic.”

Editor’s note. The Senate Judiciary Committee held an important hearing today on The Infant Patient: Ensuring Appropriate Medical Care for Children Born Alive Born-Alive Abortion Survivor.” The following is Sen. Ben Sasse’s opening statement. Sen Sasse (R-Neb.) is the author of the bipartisan Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Good morning. I want to thank Chairman Graham for allowing me the opportunity to chair this hearing. I also want to thank the ranking member for investing time in this important topic. She’s going to be here momentarily.

Today’s hearing, “The Infant Patient: Ensuring Appropriate Medical Care for Children Born Alive,” is a genuine opportunity for bipartisanship. 

A little bit of history, in 2002, Republicans and Democrats worked together to ensure that children born alive are recognized as persons under federal law. But, unfortunately, federal law does not criminalize the denial of care to babies who survive an abortion. 

Today, this committee has an opportunity to learn from experts in the legal and medical communities as we consider what we can do to protect newborn babies.

Before Senators and journalists begin to write this hearing off as just another messy and complicated fight about long-standing disputes regarding abortion policy, I want to humbly ask that we not immediately retreat into the fortified and familiar trenches our two parties have occupied for most of the past forty-seven years. 

I want to say that I am proudly pro-life, but I am not here to get my pro-abortion rights colleagues to join me at next year’s March for Life. That’s not what this hearing is about. This hearing is not about overturning Roe v. Wade. In fact, this hearing is not actually about limiting access to abortion at all. This hearing isn’t a debate about third-trimester, or second-trimester, or first-trimester abortion. This hearing is about making sure that every newborn baby has a fighting chance – whether she’s born in a labor and delivery ward or whether she’s born in an abortion clinic.  

That’s what the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection act does. That’s all it does. It makes sure that a baby that is born alive during a botched abortion would be given the same level of medical care that would be provided to any other baby at that same gestational stage. I think we need to underscore this because we’re probably going to hear lots of things surrounding the hearing that are about other topics. Many of them are important. Many of them have meaningful debates, but they’re probably not really what this hearing is about. This hearing is about babies that are born alive, surviving a botched abortion attempt, and about whether or not they should be provided the same level of medical care that would be provided to any other baby at the same gestational stage. 

If we come to this hearing with humility and compassion, if we open our hearts and minds and actually listen to our witnesses – some of whom are going to share very painful and personal stories today – I think that we will have the opportunity to do some bipartisan work. 

I say that for two reasons: First, just to underscore again a historical point; and then second a point about our shared humanity. 

History: Last year, fifty-three Senators, a majority of the Senate, and including three democrats – Senator Casey, Senator Jones, and Senator Manchin – voted in favor of this legislation, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. And some of the Democrats that didn’t vote in favor of this legislation said they would like to have a hearing on the legislation. So, that’s some of why we’re here today and I know that my Democratic colleagues on this committee think highly of their colleagues, and our colleagues, from Pennsylvania, Alabama, and West Virginia and I hope they will seriously engage the position they’ve taken in good faith rather than letting politics and rhetoric surrounding other topics consume this hearing. I’m hopeful that we can build on last year’s majority and bipartisan vote. 

Second, about our shared humanity: In our hearts, each of us knows that every member of our human family ought to be protected, that every baby is born with dignity. For two centuries, Americans have worked relentlessly to extend basic human rights to more and more of our fellow citizens. Senator Bernie Sanders and I, two men who don’t agree much in terms of our voting record, do agree about this – this is a recent Senator Sanders quote – “the mark of a great nation is how it treats its most vulnerable people.” Yes, and amen. That’s why we’re here today. It’s time to protect these newborn and vulnerable babies. 

Thank you, I defer to Senator Durbin who might be making some opening comments.