When I became a member of Congress, I expected that one day I would probably end up in a debate over the issue of abortion, but I never in my wildest dreams expected to be in a debate over the worth of a child who has already been born alive. This week, I signed a discharge petition to force House leadership to bring the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to the House floor for a vote.
In January, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam went on the radio to defend a bill, which would have legalized abortion even while the mother was in labor, explaining that if a child ended up being born alive, the child would be kept comfortable while a decision was made about his or her fate.
New York and Rhode Island recently passed laws allowing abortion up to the point of birth for essentially any reason and similar bills are advancing in other states as well.
According to Gallup, only 13 percent of Americans believe that late-term abortion should generally be legal.
But given the callous disregard for human life shown by Northam and other late-term abortion advocates, Americans have good reason for concern that these new laws will also result in the killing of children even after they have been born alive. Currently, 24 states do not offer protections for infants born alive.
To protect these children, I have actively supported the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The bill is not even about abortion; it would penalize the killing of a child who was born alive and would require medical practitioners to offer the same care to an abortion survivor that they would for any other child born prematurely. The bill would also protect mothers from prosecution and give the mother a legal cause of action against a medical practitioner who denies care.
There should be no debate that a child who is born alive deserves care and protection. So it should shock our consciences that the bill was rejected.
We know so much more about human development now than we did when Roe v. Wade was handed down 46 years ago. Ultrasounds and fetal heart monitors, which were not commonly used at that point, allow us to hear a child’s heartbeat at eight weeks of development. And we now know the unborn children can feel and react to pain at just 20 weeks.
Imagine if we were we to discover a single living cell on Mars. We would go to tremendous lengths to preserve that life; yet killing a fully formed child who could survive on their own outside the womb is common practice.
Medical professionals perform surgery on unborn children, even using anesthesia to prevent pain, yet our nation allows the destruction of these children at the same stage of development.
But opposition to the Born-Alive Act does not even concern stages of development. There is no question that a child who has already been born has the right to life.
This week, 191 members of Congress lined up on the House floor to sign a discharge petition, which – if it receives 218 members’ signatures – would force a vote on this life-or-death issue. If House leadership truly opposes infanticide, then let’s pass the bill. And if not, those who vote against outlawing infanticide should have their votes on record.
Pro-life members of Congress have now stood up to request a vote on the Born-Alive Act at least 25 times, and I will continue not only pushing for this vital legislation but working to build a culture of life across our nation and to protect children at all stages of development.