In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) introduced this bill to punish healthcare providers who fail to provide care to an infant born alive following an attempted abortion:
“I have been horrified to watch radical Democratic legislators argue that babies who survive abortions should not be given the same level of medical care that all other newborn babies receive. Congress must act to protect those who cannot protect themselves. That is why I introduced the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which merely ensures that babies who survive abortions receive immediate, lifesaving care—just as any other baby would. To my colleagues, this is the simplest vote you will ever take: either you support babies being killed after they are born or you don’t. It is time to go on the record and make clear if you think babies born alive deserve medical care, or if you think they should be left to die."
It came in response to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) explanation of a since-tabled bill that was criticized as an endorsement of infanticide:
“If the mother is in labor the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated, if that’s what the mother and the family desired and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”
Northam’s office said critics were trying to “extrapolate” his comments “in bad faith” because he has worked to care for children his whole life and “any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting”.
When this bill’s Senate companion (S. 311), introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), received a vote on the floor several Democratic senators spoke in opposition to it. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) said it “puts Congress in the middle of important medical decisions that patients and doctors should make together without political interference and “forces physicians to provide inappropriate medical treatment.” The legislation failed to gain the 60 votes needed to limit debate after a 53-44 vote , in which Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (PA), Joe Manchin (WV), and Doug Jones (AL) joined all Republicans by voting in favor.
This legislation has the support of 190 House cosponsors, including 187 Republicans and three Democrats. House Republicans have attempted to bring this legislation to the floor using a discharge petition and have asked for unanimous consent to vote on the bill 80 times prior to the beginning of the 2019 August recess. The discharge petition has 201 signatures from House lawmakers as of August 20, 2019, and if it reaches 218 signatures it will be called up for a vote.
Of Note: The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002 after unanimously passing Congress, clarifies that for the purpose of federal law the terms “person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual” include every infant born alive — whether the birth is the result of labor, c-section, or induced abortion. It doesn’t contain its own criminal penalties or enforcement mechanisms to hold abortion providers accountable for failing to provide medical attention and care to infants born alive.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, there are 24 states that impose abortion bans after a certain number of weeks, 17 of which ban abortion at about 20 weeks post-fertilization or its equivalent of 22 weeks on the grounds that the fetus can feel pain. Globally, only the U.S., Canada, North Korea, China, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Netherlands allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy according to Politifact.
Between 8,000 and 15,000 late-term abortions (at or after 21 weeks of gestation) are performed in the U.S. each year according to 2015 data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and the 2008 Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health report.
While it’s often said that women who seek late-term abortions do so because of fetal abnormalities or danger to their life if the fetus was delivered, a 2013 study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco noted that limited “data suggest most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.” Of the women in the study seeking late-term abortions 43% reported that they didn’t realize they were pregnant and 37% had trouble deciding whether to have an abortion. Once they decided to have an abortion, 65% reported the procedure’s cost as a barrier.
In some instances, abortions fail and an infant is born alive — although data on the number of times that occurs is hard to come by because states aren’t required to report data on the subject. Several states and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have released relatively recent data regarding cases of infants surviving attempted abortions:
- Florida has reported two infants born alive after an attempted abortion so far in 2019, after reporting six cases in 2018, and 11 cases in 2017.
- Minnesota has reported that 11 infants initially survived attempted abortions since it began gathering data in 2015, including five in 2016, three in 2017, and three in 2018.
- Arizona reported 10 cases when life-saving measures were taken from August 2017 to December 2017, and there were a total of 12,533 abortions performed for the full year.
- Michigan and Texas haven’t reported any cases since they began reporting, while Oklahoma’s report is unclear.
- A CDC report found 143 deaths from 2003-2014 from induced terminations of pregnancies, but the data only covers deaths of infants born alive and excludes stillbirths. Additionally, the CDC acknowledged the 143 number could be an underestimate because of unclear data related to whether the case involved premature labor versus a decision to induce labor or terminate a pregnancy.
Those numbers were disputed by a doctor from Physicians for Reproductive Health, who told Fox News:
“These data are likely reflecting cases in which a woman has a wanted pregnancy but is unable to continue it, where she makes the decision with her doctor to end the pregnancy through induction of labor. Examples may include a woman who has life-threatening bleeding before her baby is viable, who was in a car accident and has severe injuries that would require labor to be induced, or who received a fetal diagnosis that was incompatible with life.”
In 2015, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Melissa Ohden, the founder of the Abortion Survivors Network.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: iStock.com / NanoStockk)