Amid a nationwide debate over late-term abortion and infanticide, Texas became the latest state to draft legal protections for babies born alive after an abortion attempt. Last week, the Texas House of Representatives approved a born-alive bill and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The Senate passed its own version of the measure earlier this month. Both bills require abortion facilities provide medical care to babies born after botched abortions.
“At the heart of the bill, the ‘Texas Born-Alive Protection Act,’ it is designed to strengthen the protections to those babies who survive abortions,” Rep. Jeff Leach, a Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said at a news conference. “Join me in supporting House Bill 16, showing the rest of the country—states like Virginia, New York, and Washington, D.C.—that we’re going to continue to stand for life in this state.” The House passed the bill Wednesday by a vote of 94-2, with 49 representatives abstaining.
Joe Pojman, the executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, told me his organization fully expects the Texas legislature to approve either the Senate or House version of the bill and Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to sign one of them. Both bills, Pojman said, “really demonstrate the concern of the Texas legislature, and, after it’s signed, of the governor, that we want to do everything possible to protect unborn babies and babies who survive abortion.”
Many news outlets are reporting the state has received no reports of babies born alive after abortions, but Pojman pointed out that abortionists likely wouldn’t report those because state law protects unborn babies after 20 weeks of gestation unless the mother’s life is in danger or the baby has a severe abnormality.
“We suspect that [live births] may be going on in certain facilities,” Pojman said. “However, it would be naive to assume that a physician who performs a late abortion, which results in a live birth, would report that live birth to the state. It would be like asking a physician who cheats on his income taxes to report that cheating to the IRS.”
The House bill would allow parents or legal guardians to file a civil lawsuit against an abortionist who fails to provide care to their child born alive after an abortion attempt, while the Senate bill does not. Both bills impose a $100,000 civil penalty on abortionists who violate the act, but the Senate version would also make the failure to provide care a third-degree felony. Neither bill carries any punishment for the mother.
Lawmakers began pushing the bills in response to efforts by several states to allow abortion up until the moment of birth. New York did away with nearly all protections for unborn babies in January. Vermont is considering both a bill and a constitutional amendment that would do the same. Del. Kathy Tran of Virginia, a Democrat, introduced a similar bill that led to controversial comments by Gov. Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, who some people thought was promoting infanticide. That measure failed in committee.
Pro-life legislators have since introduced legislation at the state and federal levels to protect babies from negligence after failed abortions. U.S. Senate Democrats blocked a bill in February that would have required medical care for babies who survived abortions. A born-alive bill passed in the North Carolina legislature on Tuesday, but Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed it Thursday. Cooper called the bill “needless” and pointed to state law that already protects newborns.
“Roy Cooper didn’t just veto a bill, he vetoed babies who are innocently born alive as a the result of a botched abortion,” said Tami Fitzgerald, director of North Carolina Values Coalition.