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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The United States Senate voted 53-44 Monday evening in favor of legislation to guarantee medical care to babies who survive botched abortions, but failed to reach the 60 votes necessary for the bill to overcome the current filibuster rules and pass.

Originally introduced in 2015 and proposed in the current session in response to comments by Virginia Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam defending the prospect of letting a disabled or “non-viable” infant die after a failed abortion attempt, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would require abortionists to provide medical care for such babies. Under the 2002 Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, babies who survive abortions are recognized as human beings with human rights, but how specifically to handle them isn’t defined.

“Public officials, at all levels and in every party, should be able to condemn infanticide and come to the defense of the weakest members of our society,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who re-introduced the bill’s Senate version, wrote Monday in a Fox News op-ed. “Recognizing the equality of every person shouldn’t be a cheap campaign line. It is a core American promise. My colleagues know this. They have attested to it eloquently and powerfully in recent weeks. Now is the time to make good on those promises.”

The final vote fell largely along party lines, though Democrat Sens. Doug Jones, Bob Casey, and Joe Manchin broke ranks to support it. One of the Senate’s two pro-abortion Republicans, Susan Collins, also supported the bill, while the other, Lisa Murkowski, didn’t vote. Sens. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, and Tim Scott, R-SC, also didn’t vote.

Even though the vote more than cleared the Senate’s Republican majority, GOP-backed Senate filibuster rules require most standalone legislation to first pass a 60-vote cloture threshold before a final simple-majority vote. It would have been possible, albeit time-consuming, to circumvent the filibuster by forcing the minority party to engage in a literal filibuster and enforce the “two-speech rule” limiting the number of times individual Democrats can speak. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has long been unwilling to repeal the filibuster, with little discussion among the GOP or pro-life groups of modifying or maneuvering around it.

“The tragedy today is that even though a majority of Senators voted to protect infants born alive during an abortion, the ‘new math’ of the Congress means this is still a loss,” Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins responded. “Those senators who voted against this bill that obviously protects human beings will have a lot to answer for when they face the voters.”

As for the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise plan to file a discharge petition, which would force a vote on the bill regardless of leaders’ opposition if it gets at least 218 signatures (a simple majority). In the meantime, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Republicans will continue to press Democrats to give it unanimous consent.

When the House considered the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in 2015, only five Democrats crossed the aisle to support it, and the number of pro-life House Democrats has decreased since then.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nationwide, between 2003 and 2014 at least 143 babies died after being born alive during botched abortions – and the CDC states this could be an underestimation,” said Live Action Founder and President Lila Rose in a statement. “In 2018, 16 infants in Florida alone were born alive after surviving abortion attempts. Senators who voted no on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act should be ashamed of themselves. Shockingly, infanticide in the context of abortion is not illegal in the U.S. There is no existing federal law that prohibits the denial of medical care to infants born alive after abortion attempts. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would have appropriately required that infants delivered alive during attempted abortion procedures be given appropriate medical care and penalized those who neglected to save them.”

Earlier this month, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List released the results of a McLaughlin & Associates poll finding that 77 percent of Americans support the protections of the bill, and 62 percent oppose late-term abortions.