Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Trump picks up pro-life effort dropped in Congress

Life | The president’s executive order seeks to protect abortion survivors
by Leah Hickman
Posted 9/28/20, 05:10 pm

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday to shore up protections for babies who survive abortions. The order requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure medical centers that receive federal funding give life-saving assistance to all premature and disabled newborns in compliance with existing laws.

Seven months ago, just a few weeks before the coronavirus lockdowns began, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act failed to receive the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster in the U.S. Senate. The bill also stalled in the House, where Republican lawmakers have filed a discharge petition to bring the measure to the floor for a vote. The petition has 205 of the 218 signatures needed, but it likely will not get any more before the end of this congressional session.

“Unfortunately, after months of waiting, no action was taken,” said Connors Semelsberger, a legislative assistant with the Family Research Council. “The administration is doing what they can.”

The 2002 Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, signed by President George W. Bush, clarified that born infants have the same right to lifesaving medical care as any other human. But that law did not institute penalties for medical professionals who failed to comply. Trump’s executive order gives the secretary of health and human services the power to cut funding from medical programs that ignore the 2002 law. Organizations that don’t receive federal funding are outside of the order’s purview.

“Without … the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection [Act], there are no federal enforcement tools to punish abortionists and healthcare professionals performing abortions in private clinics … that do not provide medical care,” Semelsberger said.

This order joins a host of other pro-life policies the Trump administration has enacted, including limiting funding for overseas groups that support abortion, increasing oversight of fetal tissue research, and blocking Planned Parenthood’s participation in the Title X family planning program.

Congress has the power to codify each of those actions into law, but Semelsberger said lawmakers have been “delegating out their duties to legislate” to the courts and the executive branch instead: “It has put us as the pro-life movement in very much a pendulum swing.”


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Leah Hickman

Leah is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @leahmhickman.

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