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Democratic governors in Arizona and Kansas veto legislation that would have protected babies born alive after botched abortions — but there's hope yet

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Republican-controlled legislatures in both Kansas and Arizona recently passed legislation to protect babies born alive after botched abortions. The states' Democratic governors, Laura Kelly of Kansas and Katie Hobbs of Arizona, conversely vetoed the bills.

The bills

House Bill 2313, the "Born-alive infants protection act," was introduced to the Kansas legislature on Feb. 7.

The stated purpose of the bill was to provide legal protections for infants born alive; require certain standards of care by health care providers for infants who are born alive; and provide criminal penalties and civil liability for violations of the act.

"Born alive" is defined as the "complete expulsion or extraction of a human being from its mother, at any stage of development, who, after such expulsion or extraction, breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section or induced abortion."

The bill passed the state House on March 22 in a 88-34 partisan vote and then the Senate on March 29 with a 31-9 vote. After the House signed off on Senate amendments, it went to the governor's desk.

Senate Bill 1600 was introduced to the Arizona Senate on Feb. 1.

This bill would have required that "any infant who is born alive, including one born during the course of an abortion, shall be treated as a legal person under the laws of this state and shall have the same rights to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment."

Reasonable care and treatment would include resuscitation.

In addition to requiring that the human child be treated as a legal person and all that entails, SB 1600, if ratified, would have required birth and death certificates to be issued for the infant, ostensibly to ensure that medical professionals could not altogether dehumanize their victim.

Hospitals, abortionists, or others involved would be compelled to notify law enforcement of a failure to treat the child as a legal person.

Health professionals who failed to take proper action and willfully let the child die would be guilty of a class 6 felony.

The bill would also have required hospitals and facilities that killed babies in or outside the womb to "submit to the department of health services ... a report of each abortion performed in the hospital or facility."

SB 1600 passed the Arizona Senate with a 16-13 vote on Feb. 22, and was approved by the state House in a 32-26 vote on March 30.

The vetoes

Arizona Gov. Hobbs vetoed SB 1600 on April 6.

In the statement accompanying her veto, Hobbs intimated that the democratic will of the people was trumped by the medical community's preferences.

"The bill is uniformly opposed by the medical community, and interferes with the relationship between a patient and doctor," wrote Hobbs. "It's simply not the state's role to make such difficult medical decisions for patients."

Hobbs' decision was to the satisfaction of Brittany Fonteno, the incentivized CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, reported KGUN-TV.

Fonteno called the proposed law "part of a coordinated effort to undermine the bodily autonomy of pregnant people and exploit the spectrum of the abortion experience for political and cultural gain."

Kansas Gov. Kelly followed suit and vetoed HB 2313 on April 14.

Kelly noted in her veto statement, "This bill is misleading and unnecessary. Federal law already protects newborns, and the procedure being described in this bill does not exist in Kansas in the era of modern medicine."

"The intent of this bill is to interfere in medical decisions that should remain between doctors and their patients," added Kelly.

The backlash

Republican Kansas Speaker of the House Dan Hawkins responded to Kelly's veto with a statement, saying, "I'm saddened to see that with this veto of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act that the Governor has chosen to abandon the dignity of life by allowing for the ending of an infant's life even once it's outside the womb."

"This veto gives abortionists free rein to walk away as a living, breathing baby dies," said Hawkins. "This is not only radical, but also inhumane and I am confident House Republicans will make every effort during veto session to protect all living, breathing infants in our state regardless of the conditions surrounding their birth."

Sarah Moe with the Abortion Survivors Network similarly rejected Kelly's claim, telling the Catholic News Agency that an estimated 1,734 babies are born alive after failed surgical abortions every year.

"Although 1,734 is what we can account for based on those more medical procedures, it’s really hard to track the chemical abortions, which is going to yield a higher failure rate, which means a higher survival rate for those infants, said Moe. "And those infants in turn are susceptible to exposure to another abortion."

According to Moe, the abortion survivors that will now be left to die on hospital beds in Kelly's Arizona will join the ranks of an estimated 85,817 babies born alive after the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, some of whom work with the Abortion Survivors Network.

As for Kelly's suggestion that federal law already protects newborns, Moe said, "I would love for her to tell us where that is, because it certainly has not been codified."

Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Denise Burke said Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs "has made it clear: she would rather cater to the abortion industry than affirm the basic human rights of vulnerable children. ... Her failure to protect the lives of children once they are outside of the womb is unthinkable and inexcusable."

Undying hope

While Hobbs has successfully killed the bill and by extension those it may have saved, the Catholic News Agency noted that the case is not hopeless in Kansas, where the GOP has supermajorities in the legislature and could possibly override Kelly's veto.

Kelsey Pritchard, director of state public affairs at the Susan B. Anthony List, told the CNA, "Just based on the bill passing on an 86-36 margin in the House to begin with and also with overwhelming support in the Senate, we expect that the Kansas Legislature will do the right thing here and make this the law in Kansas."

"It’s just really disturbing for us to see [Democrats] and the abortion industry attempt to erase a whole group of people," added Pritchard.

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