On Feb. 25, 2019, Tina Smith rose to speak on the floor of the U.S. Senate in opposition to a bill that she warned would "dictat[e] medical care for women," infringe on "decisions about women's health care," and "[force] physicians to provide inappropriate medical treatment." The proposed legislation, she said, failed to "treat women with respect."
The legislation Smith opposed is called the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. It has precisely nothing to do with medical care for women. It also has nothing to do with access to abortion. Instead, the bill requires that newborn babies who have survived abortion (babies who are already born and still alive) be treated with "the same degree" of care as other babies born at the same age. It also prohibits overtly killing them.
Smith never once mentioned these infants—protection for whom is the sole object of the legislation—in her speech.
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act doesn't specify the care that is appropriate (which may vary depending on circumstances), but it does prevent discrimination against infants solely on the grounds that they were born in the context of abortion. That means practitioners of abortion may not abandon or neglect them any more than they may abandon or neglect other premature newborns.
Sen. Smith, who is up for re-election on Nov. 3 against pro-life challenger Jason Lewis, vigorously opposes this equal treatment.
She's not the only senator who has voted that way. Most other members of her party in Congress have too (such as vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris), and many have adopted the same bizarrely inapplicable talking points. They have successfully filibustered the bill and prevented it from passing. Smith, though, has assumed a prominent role in the dishonesty.
That's not surprising given her background in the abortion industry (which opposes measures to require ordinary care for abortion survivors). Smith boasts that she's "the only senator to have worked at Planned Parenthood." During her tenure as vice president at Planned Parenthood in Minnesota (2003-2006), the group increased its annual abortion total by 22 percent and became the state's leading performer of abortion. Smith lobbied against Minnesota's Woman's Right to Know law, which ensures informed consent prior to abortion, and Minnesota's Positive Alternatives program, which empowers women who want to keep their babies by providing support and alternatives.
Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, later told the Star Tribune: "[Smith] really built our education and outreach efforts. She's got a pretty strong legacy around here."
Smith went on to serve as Gov. Mark Dayton's chief of staff and then his lieutenant governor—a period during which Dayton vetoed numerous pro-life bills, including limits on late-term and tax-funded abortions, and safety standards for abortion facilities—before Dayton appointed her to replace Al Franken in the U.S. Senate following Franken's resignation.
Since joining the Senate, Smith has voted against protection for unborn children after 20 weeks, when substantial medical evidence shows they can experience pain, and in favor of federal taxpayer funding of elective abortions. She has a zero percent pro-life voting record, according to the National Right to Life Committee. It's not clear that there are any conceivable limits or safeguards relating to abortion that she wouldn't strongly and vocally oppose.
In a recent speech on the Senate floor opposing the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Smith repeatedly used the Orwellian term "health care" to describe the ripping off of arms and legs, the poisoning of bodies, the ending of lives. She said such acts are "essential for women to have the freedom and the opportunity to live the lives that they choose."
Of course, if abortion is unjust, then it can't be defended on the grounds that it could make life easier—no more than other human rights violations could be justified that way. Nor is abortion somehow necessary for women to flourish, as heroic women all across the country, including those facing difficult and unfair circumstances, prove every day.
But Smith's recent remarks do capture her view of abortion. Unfettered abortion, she believes, is important. It's a public good. And what about unborn (or newborn) human lives? They are expendable, a category of human beings who have no rights deserving of our respect.
Even worse? As the speech against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act makes clear, Smith wants to pretend that those vulnerable and marginalized humans don't even exist.
They have no voice in Minnesota's U.S. Senate delegation, and Tina Smith wants to keep it that way.
This article appears in the 2020 election edition of NRL News.