Republicans are maneuvering to give an abortion survivors protection bill a floor vote in the Democrat-controlled House.
GOP leaders will file a discharge petition to force a vote on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act on April 2 in an effort to force a vote after Democrats have refused to bring it out of committee. Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R., La.) is spearheading the effort to gain the 218 votes needed to accomplish that goal. That would require the support of his entire caucus, as well as 21 Democrats. Scalise acknowledged that the maneuver is rarely used, but said it was necessary given the embrace of "radical abortion" positions advancing in blue states, such as New York.
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"This is one tool we have, especially as the minority party, to try to bring very important and critical legislation to a vote," he told the Washington Free Beacon. "There is momentum already starting to build … we already have heard from some Democrats and there's been a lot of interest from the pro-life community."
The bill would force abortionists and medical personnel to provide care to infants who survive the procedure and are born alive. Bills in the House and Senate emerged following public outcry when Virginia's Democratic governor Ralph Northam endorsed allowing babies to die on the table if doctors did not receive permission from mothers to care for them. Scalise called the practice "barbaric" and recent late-term abortion legislation in New York has "alarmed people all across the country."
"This bill gives survivors the full protections that every other American enjoys," he said. "I don't see how anybody can defend this practice—this shouldn't be part of the abortion debate, it's a born alive."
Three Democrats have co-sponsored the bill, meaning Scalise is working to convince 18 more members to break from party leadership. Polls taken in the wake of Northam's comments and New York adopting a policy guaranteeing abortion up until birth have found that 70 percent of Democrats and a majority of self-described pro-choice voters support providing care to newborn abortion survivors. Bill sponsor Ann Wagner (R., MO) called the discharge petition "a critical step in forcing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to bring HR 962, the Born Alive Survivors Protection Act, to a vote."
"As radical states and legislators have begun promoting not just late term abortions but infanticide, it is more important than ever that we come together to protect America’s women and children with lifesaving medical care during the moments they cannot protect themselves," Wagner said in a release.
Pro-life groups welcomed the GOP's commitment to advancing the bill. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Democratic leaders should be held accountable for advancing "an extreme agenda" that is "unpopular within their own rank and file."
"Our pro-life allies have been silenced and ignored by Democratic leadership committed to an extreme agenda of abortion on demand through the moment of birth and even beyond," she said in a statement. "An overwhelming majority of voters are horrified by infanticide and want Congress to protect babies born alive during failed abortions."
No action has been taken on the legislation since March 22 when the Judiciary Committee referred it to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. If the discharge petition succeeds, the legislation can be brought to a floor vote at any time during the 2019 session.