The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would require that all infants born after attempted abortions get medical care, the first abortion-related legislation from the House GOP majority after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade over the summer.
The measure, titled the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, passed in a mainly 220-210-1 vote. Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas) was the only Democrat to vote for the measure. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) voted “present.”
The bill, which House Republicans vowed to bring up even before they clinched the majority, would mandate that an infant born alive after an attempted abortion receives the same degree of care that any other child born prematurely would receive. The measure also requires that the infant is taken to a hospital. And it threatens providers who don’t comply with a fine or up to five years in prison.
It is rare for an infant to be born after an attempted abortion, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 143 infants were born after an attempted induced termination from 2003 to 2014, according to the agency, the majority of whom died between one and four hours later. Of those, 97 “involved a maternal complication or, one or more congenital anomalies.”
House passage of the bill comes days before the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which made access to abortion a constitutional right. The justices struck down that decision in June.
The move from the bench reverberated across the country, with conservatives hailing the court and liberals sounding the alarm about the future of abortion access in the U.S. That fallout lingered until the November midterm elections, with abortion proving to be a top priority for voters. Polls ranked it as the second most important issue, behind inflation.
Months after the election, and in their first week of legislating, House Republicans brought the born-alive bill and a resolution condemning attacks on pro-life facilities to the floor.
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), a sponsor of the born-alive legislation, hailed its passage.
“Every single newborn, regardless the circumstances of their birth, deserves to share the miracle of life and have lifesaving medical care. We must act with compassion to protect these little ones and give women a strong support system as they navigate the miracles and challenges of motherhood,” she said in a statement. “This bill will save real lives, and it will give survivors a precious chance to build a future.”
Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), a co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, said the measure affirms that “life is sacred.”
“Upholding the value and sanctity of life has been a personal mission for me, and this bill plays a key role in affirming what the American people have always known: life is sacred,” she wrote in a statement following the vote.
Democrats, on the other hand, sharply criticized the bill during debate on the House floor Wednesday. Some argued that the measure was not needed because infants are already protected through a law Congress approved in 2002.
That legislation, titled the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002, said infants must receive the same legal rights as any other individuals. The legislation passed through both chambers and then-President George W. Bush signed it into law.
“It is illegal and always has been illegal in every state and then federal law to kill an infant born alive. It is illegal and always has been illegal not to provide that infant with appropriate medical care,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on the House floor.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) called the bill “extremist, dangerous and unnecessary.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America on Tuesday condemned this bill as “one that would allow politicians to interfere in personal family decisions.”
“These bills make it plain: House Republicans are patently rejecting the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans who voted to support legal abortion in November,” said Mini Timmaraju, the organization’s president.
Updated at 6:44 p.m.