One of the more controversial bills surrounding anti-abortion laws has to do with the Born Alive Protection legislature. This legislation seeks to protect the lives of babies born following a failed abortion. The discussion is similar to the arguments both for and against late-term abortions, although the instances for babies born alive are rarer than the latter.
Out of the total number of abortions in the United States, “failed abortions” are relatively rare. For example, six states were required to report babies born alive following a failed abortion attempt. In 2017, Minnesota reported three infant deaths following a live birth after an abortion procedure. However, despite the low number, these cases did not show strong medical efforts to preserve the life of the child. All three infants did not survive. Similarly, in Arizona, reports of any babies who were born alive were required to be reported. Out of more than 12,000 abortions in 2017, ten born-alive abortion reports were filed, and there were efforts to preserve the lives of those babies.
There are several reasons why anti-abortion activists argue for and promote Born-Alive Protection legislation. The first reason is, of course, to defend the rights of the innocent and vulnerable. A baby born alive after a failed abortion is an innocent party who is unable to speak up or defend themselves. A compelling argument for these legislative measures protecting these babies is that the current language does not always require a medical professional to take the necessary steps to save the life of a child born alive after an attempted abortion. For example, pro-abortion lobbyists for the ROE Amendment to the Massachusetts State Budget sought to remove the language of liability on the physician performing the abortion. Instead, the language stated that “life-saving medical equipment” be present in the room – but the medical professional does not have to use it. Perhaps this is what occurred in the three Minnesotan cases above.
One of the main arguments from the pro-abortion side of the issue is that the number of babies surviving “failed abortions” are few and far between. Some have even said the issue is nonexistent. Others point to the 2002 Born Alive Protection Act, which extended protections to babies who are born alive from a failed abortion. However, in 2019, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act, drafted by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, sought to provide greater protections by requiring immediate care and hospitalization for any newborn, regardless of the reason, and any physician who did not follow these guidelines would be subject to hefty fines. The response from pro-abortion activists was swift, arguing that the 2002 Act was enough to protect babies born alive. They state that criminalizing physicians for not going above and beyond to care for these babies violates their freedoms. These arguments fall flat ultimately because they rely on language that absolves physicians from the responsibility of providing care to babies born alive, no matter the reason or how rare the situation is.
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