Pro-life organizations are rallying around House Republicans as they push for a floor vote on legislation aimed at protecting abortion survivors.
On Tuesday, Republicans led by Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) launched a discharge petition to bring the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act out of committee. The legislation has languished in the Judiciary Committee with little hope of getting a full hearing in the Democrat-controlled chamber. Scalise said the seldom-used legislative maneuver is necessary to respond to the "real grassroots movement" demanding legal protections for babies that survive abortions.
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"We are hearing from more and more people demanding action," he said. "This is an uphill battle … things this important aren't easy, but they're necessary."
The bill was introduced in the wake of landmark legislation passed in New York and other Democratically-controlled state that guaranteed abortion up until the point of birth. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a career physician, sparked further outcry when he defended a similar bill by endorsing withholding life-saving care from an infant who survives the procedure. Senate Democrats blocked a Born Alive bill sponsored by Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) in March, but pro-life groups are hopeful they can succeed in the House after three Democrats bucked leadership and co-sponsored the bill.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said lawmakers need to check radical abortion politics, as pro-choice politicians have moved away from the "safe, legal, and rare" mantra of the Clinton years and toward open endorsement of late-term abortion. Every major 2020 presidential candidate has endorsed New York's policies and the House vote would be a way to get " our elected officials’ positions on infanticide are on the record."
"Only about half of states have laws on the books that mandate physicians provide medical care in cases of an infant born alive after at attempted abortion, and protections that do exist for these babies are at risk, as we have seen in New York, Rhode Island and other states," Mancini said in a statement. " The need for this legislation has recently become more apparent."
Other pro-life activists have taken aim at Democratic leadership for blocking the bill. Maureen Ferguson, a senior advisor to the Catholic Association, said lawmakers should not be forced to use "unusual procedural tactics to demand a vote." The group has brought a group of survivors to Capitol Hill to lobby for its passage and put a human face to the violence practiced on children inside and outside of the womb.
"It is shocking and inhumane for Speaker Pelosi to block a vote on this bill, which would protect babies who are accidentally born alive after an attempted abortion," she said in a release. "We implore Members of the House to listen to the powerful voices of abortion survivors."
The bill has also won the support of some healthcare groups. The Catholic Medical Association endorsed measures to guarantee life-saving care to newborns. Any attempt to block the law, it said, is tantamount to supporting infanticide. Dr. Kathleen Raviele, an OBGYN and former CMA president, said doctors have the same obligation to care for a newborn as they would a drowning or choking child.
"Any politician who cannot support this common sense, humanitarian law is heartless and should not be representing Americans," Dr. Kathleen Raviele, OBGYN and former CMA president, said in a statement. "The usual and customary response of a compassionate physician would be to come to the aid of a child in distress."
The discharge petition requires a majority to pass, which will require all 197 members of the Republican caucus, as well as 21 Democrats. If it is successful, the bill can be voted on any time during the 2019 session.