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2018: A look at the federal legislative year ahead

by | Jan 17, 2018

By Jennifer Popik, J.D., Director of Federal Legislation

Editor’s note. This appears the January digital edition of National Right to Life News. Please read the issue in its entirety and pass it along to pro-life friends and family.

As a hundred thousand or more people from all across the country prepare to travel to Washington D.C. for the annual March for Life on January 19th, National Right to Life is gearing up for a busy year working with the U.S. Congress on federal legislation.

January House Vote

There is slated to be a vote on or near the day of the annual March of Life on H.R. 4712, the Born Alive Abortion Survivor’s Protection Act.

In 2002, Congress approved, without a dissenting vote, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), subsequently signed into law by President George W. Bush. This important law states that “every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development” is a “person” for all federal law purposes. The bill defines “born alive” to include a baby born as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.

The BAIPA was a response to troubling indications that some abortion providers and pro-abortion activists did not regard infants born alive during abortion procedures as legal persons – especially if the infants were deemed to be “pre-viable” (i.e., have limited life expectancy due to prematurity).

However, in the years since BAIPA was enacted, evidences have multiplied that some abortion providers continue to not regard babies born alive during abortions as persons. They do not provide them with the types of care that would be provided to premature infants who are born spontaneously.

In some cases, such born-alive infants are even subjected to overt acts of deadly violence. In 2013, Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia was convicted under state law of multiple homicides of such born-alive infants, but such a prosecution and conviction is very uncommon. In some jurisdictions, local authorities seem reluctant to investigate reports of infants born alive during abortions, or to bring appropriate indictments even in cases in which the publicly reported evidence of gross neglect or overt lethal acts seems strong.

Public concern has been increased by the series of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, in which various persons described events and practices within certain Planned Parenthood abortion clinics. At the very least, they raise troubling questions about whether it is generally recognized among abortion clinic personnel that a born alive baby is a legal “person,” whether before or after “viability.” Similar questions have been raised regarding some persons who operate firms that obtain and sell baby body parts, obtained from abortion clinics, to medical researchers.

And just last month, the Department of Justice confirmed that it is actively investigating the sale of body parts. In his December 8th article for the New York Times titled, “Justice Dept. Investigating Fetal Tissue Transfers by Planned Parenthood and Others,” Nicholas Fandos writes,

But the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department is sure to breathe new life into a bruising fight over abortion and particularly the handling of fetal body parts after an abortion is complete. And it appeared to offer social conservatives a long-sought victory, moving the Planned Parenthood probes out off Capitol Hill to the Department of Justice.

National Right to Life believes that it is time for Congress to act decisively to put the entire abortion industry on notice that when they treat a born-alive human person as medical waste, as a source for organ harvesting, or as a creature who may be subjected to lethal violence with impunity, they will do so at grave legal peril.

H.R. 4712 requires that babies born alive during abortions are treated in the same manner as those who are spontaneously born prematurely.

Pro-life items to watch in the effort in the pending government funding showdown

While a major overhaul of the abortion-expanding Obama Healthcare Law (Obamacare) seems to be on hold, Congress is considering tackling several items in the upcoming government funding bill to prop up the law. National Right to Life opposes the authorizing money for Obamacare unless the funds contain true Hyde-like funding restrictions.

Prior to the enactment of Obamacare, there was a nearly uniform policy that federal programs did not subsidize health plans that included coverage of elective abortion. Over the strong objections of National Right to Life, Congress in 2010 enacted Obamacare with provisions that sharply deviated from the longstanding Hyde policy. Although denied at the time, it authorized massive federal subsidies to purchase private health plans that cover abortion on demand in all states that failed to pass laws to limit abortion coverage. The position we take on the pending proposals is identical to the position we took on the original Obamacare legislation.

National Right to Life continues to oppose any Obamacare prop-ups unless true Hyde-like provisions are added to such funding provisions.

Additionally, Congress can take a positive step to protect the rights of conscience of people to not participate in abortion by incorporating all the Conscience Protection Act in the government spending bill.

By way of background, this past fall, the House completed and sent a robust appropriations package to the Senate that contains all of the strong existing pro-life riders along with numerous new pro-life provision ranging from cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, to eliminating Title X family planning funding, to reversing the D.C. legalization of assisted suicide. H.R. 644, the Conscience Protection Act was also included, and the government funding bill provides a clear chance to enact this into law.

The Conscience Protection Act is urgently needed because of a growing number of actions by some state governments to compel participation in abortions by health care providers and others, and because hostile administrations can adopt a non-enforcement policy with respect to existing federal conscience-protection laws.

The Conscience Protection Act would prohibit any level of government from mandating that health care providers participate in abortion.

It would protect doctors, nurses, hospitals, and health plans (and employers who purchase the plans). Most importantly, the bill empowers those who are affected by abortion mandates to file private lawsuits in federal courts without the need for intervention by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Currently, California, Oregon, and New York mandate that nearly all health plans in the state must cover all abortions. This is in blatant violation of the Weldon Amendment, a provision of the HHS appropriations bill that has been in continuous effect since 2004. While the Trump Administration is actively working to undo many of the violations that were ignored in the Obama Administration, Congress can empower people to file private suits and that right would exist no matter which party was in power.

Later in 2018

The Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act (H.R. 1192)

Currently, National Right to Life is urging members of the House to sponsor the Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act (H.R. 1192).

This vital pro-life legislation, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, would prohibit the performance of dismemberment abortion. H.R. 1192 is based on a model state bill proposed by National Right to Life, which has been enacted in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. More states are expected to consider the legislation in 2018.

H.R. 1192 defines “dismemberment abortion” as “knowingly dismembering a living unborn child and extracting such unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body in order to cut or rip it off . . .”

The method is commonly used starting at about 14 weeks of pregnancy, and extending into the third trimester. A medical illustration of a D&E dismemberment abortion is available at www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/deabortiongraphic.

An unborn child should not be subjected to the cruel violence of having her arms and legs torn off by brute force, with steel tools that grasp, tear, and crush.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36)

While the details of a potential pro-life vote and the timing are not set in stone, we expect the Senate to take up the House-passed Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This legislation extends general protection to unborn children who are at least 20 weeks beyond fertilization (which is equivalent to 22 weeks of pregnancy — about the start of the sixth month). This vital legislation is similar to laws enacted in 16 states beginning in 2010, based on National Right to Life model legislation.

There is abundant medical evidence that by this point in development (and probably earlier), the unborn child has the capacity to experience excruciating pain during typical abortion procedures.

It is now commonplace to read about evidence that, by 20 weeks fetal age and even earlier, an unborn child responds to many forms of stimuli, including music and the mother’s voice. Claims that the same child is nevertheless insensible to the violence done to her body during an abortion should engender strong skepticism. Abortions at this stage typically are performed using a variety of techniques, including a method in which the unborn child’s arms and legs are twisted off by brute manual force, using a long stainless steel clamping tool. A medical illustration of this common method is posted here: www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/deabortiongraphic/

Some of the extensive scientific evidence that unborn children have the capacity to experience pain, at least by 20 weeks, is available at here: www.doctorsonfetalpain.com

A common pro-abortion response is that late abortions are “rare.” That is not true. At least 275 facilities offer abortions past 20 weeks fetal age.

The public is in our corner on this matter. In a nationwide poll of 1,623 registered voters, The Quinnipiac University Poll found that 60% would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, while only 33% opposed such legislation. Women voters split 59-35% in support of such a law, while independent voters supported it by 56-36%.

National Right to Life has urged the Senate to take up this important measure and bring it for a vote.

2018 promises to be a eventful year as National Right to Life. With your support, we anticipate a busy year working with the U.S. Congress on federal legislation.

Categories: Legislation