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Democrats fail to kill House bill that would require doctors to provide babies who survive abortions with proper medical care

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Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Republican bill ensuring that human beings born after failed abortion attempts receive the same protection of law and care as other newborns passed Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

While possibly good news for those children whom abortionists are otherwise unable to slaughter, Democrats in the Senate are poised to make sure this bill does not become law.

The bill

Reps. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) with House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) reintroduced the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 26) on Jan. 9, 2023.

There have been multiple efforts in recent years to pass some version of the same act in both the House and the Senate.

The act would "prohibit a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion."

The New York Times reported that while federal law already requires that a baby who survives an abortion receive emergency medical care, this bill seeks to clarify the standard of care doctors are to provide as well as what the penalties are for failing to extend them to those they proved incapable of slaughtering.

"If an abortion results in the live birth of an infant, the infant is a legal person for all purposes under the laws of the United States, and entitled to all the protections of such laws," says the bill.

Accordingly, an infant who survived the attempted homicide "becomes a patient" within whatever hospital, clinic, or other health care facility it finds itself in.

Any health care provider present at the time of the child's birth must "exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age."

Were the bill to become law, doctors and other health care professionals who failed to administer treatment to the abortion survivor as they would any other patient could face a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

While the bill bars the criminal prosecution of the mother who sought to have her baby killed, the mother could herself bring civil action against the offending practitioners.

Partial victory and the challenge ahead

The bill passed in the House on Jan. 11 with the support of 219 Republicans and one Democrat.

The lone Democrat who supported the rights of abortion survivors was Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas); 210 Democrats voted against the bill.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) voiced opposition to the bill, claiming, "It directs and mandates a certain medical care which may not be appropriate, which may endanger the life of an infant in certain circumstances."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said, "As our chairman said, not only is it illegal to not care for a born infant, but the law that you have provided on the Republican side actually could create more harm. It requires immediately taking a struggling baby to a hospital. That hospital could be hours away and could be detrimental to the life of that baby."

Schakowsky added, "This is nothing more than the part of the effort to make abortion illegal nationally in this county."

Washington Examiner writer Kimberly Ross noted on Twitter that inside the span of just a few minutes, Schakowsky had indicated that the hypothetical child she doesn't believe should be recognized under the law as a person might be harmed by the bill.

Vice President Kamala Harris bemoaned the possibility that America would respect the personhood of abortion survivors, tweeting, "House Republicans passed an extreme bill today that will further jeopardize the right to reproductive health care in our country. This is yet another attempt by Republican legislators to control women's bodies."

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who recently lost her speakership, similarly lost her cool on Twitter, denouncing Republicans for pushing "their extreme anti-choice agenda."

Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert (Co.) called Democrats' opposition to the bill "sick" and "radical."

"For the last several years under Democrat control, the House failed to vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This changed during the first week of the Republican majority," Cammack, one of four co-chairs of the House Pro-Life Caucus, said in a statement. "It's an honor to not only see this bill pass the House, but to receive overwhelming support from my colleagues. Upholding the value and sanctity of life has been a personal mission for me, and this bill plays a key role in affirming what the American people have always known: life is sacred."

Ahead of the vote in the House, Cammack suggested that "a child who survives an abortion attempt — who is outside the womb, breathing and struggling for life despite all attempts to end it" deserves equal protection under the law.

"Murder is illegal," she added. "That shouldn't be a controversial position."

Rep. Cammack Introduces Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act With GOP Reps. Scalise & Wagneryoutu.be

Just as "murder" proved a partisan issue in the House, it is projected to split the Senate along party lines. However, with a slight majority in the Senate, Democrats have a good shot at killing the bill.

When an earlier iteration of this bill was voted on in the Senate in 2019, it fell seven votes short of the 60 it needed to advance.

At the time, former President Donald Trump said, "The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don't mind executing babies AFTER birth."

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