The Republican-led House Wednesday passed a bill that would require health care providers to provide life-sustaining care in the rare case an infant is born alive after an attempted abortion.
The 220-210 vote almost entirely along party lines was one of two measures approved Wednesday targeting abortion, spotlighting the issue as a clear legislative agenda priority early in the new session.
Meanwhile, Democrats and reproductive rights advocates denounced the measure as unnecessary, stigmatizing and complicating for physicians.
The bill has almost no chance of even getting a vote in the Democrat-led Senate.
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More on Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act
The proposed Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would open the door to civil lawsuits and prison sentences of up to five years for health care providers who don’t comply with care requirements.
The bill does not include penalties for the parents of the infant.
Abortion-rights advocates called the measure redundant, saying a 2002 law already protects the rights of infants, including those born after an attempted abortion.
Live births after an attempted abortion are also extremely rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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What opponents say
In addition to being redundant, the bill also attempts to restrict abortion access through scare tactics against physicians, abortion-rights advocates say. Creating complicated new standards may also make it harder for providers to do their jobs and take away power over health care decisions from families and physicians, they say.
Jacqueline Ayers, the senior vice president of policy, organizing, and campaigns at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the measure a scare tactic.
“This bill is deliberately misleading and offensive to pregnant people and the doctors and nurses who provide their care,” Ayers said in a statement.
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Ayers added: “Let’s be clear: Doctors are already required to provide appropriate medical care by law. This is not how medical care works. It’s wrong, irresponsible, and dangerous to suggest otherwise.”
In a statement, NARAL Pro-Choice America said the bill is part of House Republicans’ “dishonest and out-of-touch crusade against reproductive freedom” and “would allow politicians to interfere in personal family decisions.”
Response to bill shows GOP division in House
U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, a Republican from Missouri who reintroduced the bill this week, said in a statement, “All children should have the right to receive lifesaving care, especially those who survive an abortion.”
Republicans approved the bill unanimously, but some GOP lawmakers worried about the party’s positioning on abortion as it seeks to unify around the issue.
“We learned nothing from the midterms if this is how we’re going to operate in the first week. Millions of women across the board were angry over overturning Roe v. Wade,” South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace told reporters Tuesday, according to Politico. “Trying to find a balance between protecting women’s rights and the right to life is gonna be very important. What we’re doing this week is paying lip service to life.”
Mace said she believes most voters in her swing district opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year.
Republicans largely oppose allowing abortion “for any reason” and after 15 weeks of pregnancy, according to a July AP-NORC poll. But only 16% of Republicans say abortion generally should be “illegal in all cases,” and 56% say abortion should be allowed six weeks into a pregnancy.
House passes measure condemning attacks on anti-abortion facilities
The House also voted Wednesday to pass a different measure condemning attacks on anti-abortion facilities and churches.
Reproductive rights advocates called the measure disingenuous, arguing it ignores mounting violence and threats against abortion providers and people seeking abortion care. It also passed almost entirely along party lines.
Contributing: The Associated Press