House Republicans are trying to force a vote on legislation that would put in place requirements for the care of infants born after failed abortions, the companion to a Senate bill that failed to pass in 2019.
“I urge my colleagues to stand up for what is right in putting an end to the dangerous, immoral abortion practices that take place daily in our country,” said Florida Republican Rep. Kat Cammack, who filed a petition Wednesday to force a House vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
If a majority of the House signs the document, known as a discharge petition, it will force the House to consider the measure. However, with the House under Democratic control, even by a slim margin, the discharge petition faces long odds of success.
The bill would require health providers to care for an infant born during a failed abortion procedure in the same way they would for a child born at the same gestational age. It would also require providers to transport the child to a hospital once he or she is stabilized. Providers who violate the law would face financial penalties or imprisonment of up to five years.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and Missouri Republican Ann Wagner, author of the House bill, co-signed on the petition, which, with five vacancies in the House, would need 215 signatories to force a vote. Scalise and Wagner first tried to force a vote on the House bill in 2019, but they could not get the requisite number of signatures, falling short by 13 names.
“Every single life is sacred and precious — no matter the circumstances of birth,” Wagner said on Monday. “This should not be a matter up for debate, and I hope every Member of Congress signs this petition so these basic rights are enshrined into law.”
Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse first introduced the bill in the Senate in 2017 and again in 2019, when it failed to pass. He brought the bill up for consideration again in early 2020, just weeks before the Trump administration declared the growing COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency. Sasse intends to push for a new vote on the bill, but the timeline to such a vote is unclear. Moreover, the Senate is now under Democratic control, with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer deciding which pieces of legislation get considered or don’t.
“Senator Sasse is grateful for members of the House who are working to advance this legislation,” Sasse’s deputy press secretary Brooke Bolam told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday. “Here in the Senate, he’s working to make sure the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act maintains strong bipartisan support.”
Sasse’s argument that the bill is a ban on infanticide has rankled his Democratic counterparts, who say the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is unnecessary, given the 2002 law that ensures that every infant born alive, including one born after a failed abortion, is considered a person under federal law and deserves full legal rights. Democrat Tim Kaine, for example, argued in 2019 that the 2002 born-alive measure “reaffirmed” the existing law that “infanticide is already illegal in every state.” Abortion rights advocates have also fought this legislation on the grounds that it intrudes on the confidential relationship between patients and their doctors.
Legislation like Sasse’s “fabricate a problem that doesn’t exist,” Planned Parenthood argued last year when the Nebraska Republican reintroduced the bill for the third time.
“Doctors already have an obligation to provide appropriate medical care. To suggest otherwise is false, offensive, and dangerous, not to mention a complete waste of taxpayer time and money,” Planned Parenthood said.