Opinion: Giving Medical Care to All Babies Fundamental to our Country’s Ethics

  

Over the past few months, radical legislators across the country have advocated to overturn commonsense protections relating to late-term abortions. Some states have voted on laws that would allow abortions up to the moment of delivery, even if a perfectly healthy newborn baby could be born into a doctor’s hands just a moment later. And in New York, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., politicians are now even advocating for infanticide if a child is deemed “unwanted.” 

As a mother and grandmother, I am horrified by these developments. I believe that life is beautiful and babies should be treasured. And as a legislator, I know that it is the essential role of government to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, not to end their lives. 

The reality is that many children in the United States—and across the globe—face neglect, abuse, and the fate of being “unwanted.” Our goal as legislators must be to empower families, pregnant women, and children. I’m grateful that our country has taken seriously foster care, adoption, and family support services, protecting and supporting children no matter their background. For instance, a Republican Congress last year passed the Family First Prevention Services Act, reforming our foster care system to provide support to struggling families, and reauthorized the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), which provides support to mothers. I am now working to shine a light on the struggles that young women and families face when they become pregnant. This is a policy discussion worth having—but deciding whether or not to deny newborn babies lifesaving medical care is not.

To be clear, I am a proud pro-life advocate. Human life begins at conception, and I believe abortion is a grievous human rights abuse. But discarding and killing babies who have survived a late-term abortion chills me to the core. I could never have imagined that I would have to fight for infants to receive lifesaving medical care.

Yet here we are. Babies are truly the most vulnerable members of our society, and it is our responsibility to make sure they are cared for. Every year, babies survive late-term abortions and are left to die. This is underreported and too often ignored. But I have met with many adults who have told me their stories. Melissa Ohden from Kansas City survived an abortion and is proof of what happens when a nurse steps in and cares for a baby who has been left to die. Our world is better because Melissa lived.

To ensure that no child is denied care, I introduced H.R. 962, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This legislation would simply require healthcare providers to exercise skill, care, and diligence to preserve the lives and health of children who survive abortions and then immediately transport and admit them to a hospital. This commonsense bill makes certain that babies who are born alive receive medical care just like any other infant. Unfortunately, laws vary state by state, and only 26 states protect these babies, with only six states requiring providers to report on infants who survive abortions. At the federal level, there are no medical care mandates, criminal penalties, or reporting requirements associated with killing a child who survives an abortion.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a stranglehold on her caucus. Since late February, she has rejected Republican requests to bring this legislation to a vote 29 times. I have talked to some Democrats who have voiced their support for this legislation but are cowed by possible repercussions from Democratic leadership and partisan groups berating my legislation for depriving abortionists of their “choice” to end the life of a baby who is born alive. But our founding fathers clearly did not put age limits on who is entitled to life, nor does our Constitution enable adults to end the lives of children simply because they are inconvenient. 

Fortunately, Speaker Pelosi does not have the support of the American people or her own party. In recent polling, almost 70% of Democrats support legislation that would ensure a baby who survives an abortion receives the same medical treatment as any other baby born prematurely.  

That is why I have joined with Republican Whip Steve Scalise to file a discharge petition that would force a vote on this bill in the House of Representatives when signed by a majority of Member of Congress. Every single Member of Congress should be able to go on the record and vote against infanticide—or let the American people know that they support infanticide. 

It is rare we have a chance to save lives; this is an urgent moment for our nation. So far over 190 of my colleagues—including some Democrats—have signed the petition. All it takes is 218 signatures, and I can promise you that I will never stop fighting until depriving a baby of lifesaving care is not just illegal but unthinkable.