“If there is one thing we should all agree on, it’s protecting the lives of innocent babies.” President Donald Trump, Feb. 26, 2019
On Feb. 25, a bill called the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was voted on in the U.S. Senate. It failed to get the necessary 60 votes to pass because all but three Democratic senators voted against it.
The language of the bill said, “To amend title 18, United States Code, to 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 catch is the words “proper degree of care.”
Republicans went nuts, claiming that Democrats were voting for infanticide. President Trump tweeted, “Senate Democrats just voted against legislation to prevent the killing of newborn infant children. The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth. This will be remembered as one of the most shocking votes in the history of Congress. If there is one thing we should all agree on, it’s protecting the lives of innocent babies.”
Contrary to what Trump and Republicans say, this vote does not allow killing newborn babies. No law, including the recently passed Reproductive Health Act in New York, allows infanticide. Laws do allow parents and doctors to decide what is best for the baby.
The Centers for Disease Control report that just 1.3 percent of abortions take place after 20 weeks. These are done under the most dire circumstances, not on a whim. What the “born alive” laws are trying to do is add an extra layer to what is done for a baby who can’t survive outside the womb.
When a baby is born with very little to no chance of surviving, doctors allow the parents to decide what, if any, further treatments will be attempted. One heartbreaking example of this was described in the comments section of an article on abortion.
“I worked in this area once and one vivid memory is of a baby born with his intestines hanging out exposed and his body twisted into a spinal curvature so his bottom half and feet almost faced backward and his top half forward. He was wrapped quickly and tightly so his mother could just see his normal face and he died peacefully in her arms about an hour later. His father asked to see all of him privately later and went away to vomit afterward.” (Washington Post, May 13, 2013)
Another doctor said, “I mean, imagine being six months pregnant and finding out your baby’s missing half its brain, and you’ve got this nursery you’ve painted at home, you’re so ready.” (New Yorker, Jan. 19, 2019). These are not parents who don’t love their baby.
What the Republican born-alive law would have required is that the doctors immediately take these babies, put them on life support, and start procedures to keep them alive. Whether these would succeed is immaterial. Doctors would be forced to subject the babies to endless procedures or be subject to criminal prosecution.
This is why “several medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Women’s Association and the American Public Health Association, also have publicly opposed the bill, saying in a recent letter to senators that it ‘represents a dangerous government intrusion into private health-care decisions.’ ” (Washington Post, Feb. 25, 2019)
If, by some chance, these babies survived, would these “pro-life” Republicans be willing to look the parents in the eye and say this is the best decision for their child? Would they pay for the round-the-clock nursing care and all the medical procedures needed?
Forcing parents to make this decision isn’t pro-life. It’s just cruel. Adults get to decide what measures they want at the end of life. Why should parents be denied that same right for a baby whose life cannot ultimately be saved? Why should doctors be forced to do extreme medical procedures that will result in death anyway, while subjecting the baby to unnecessary pain and suffering? Again, that’s just cruel.
Trump is right. We do have to protect our innocent babies. The question is, do we protect them just until they’re born and then abandon them to whatever struggles they’ll have to face, as Republicans seem to believe? Or do we make sure that all children have adequate health care, food, shelter, education and everything else they need, as Democrats desire? This is a serious question that deserves a very serious answer.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.