Lawmakers send abortion bill to Cooper
State lawmakers have, in less than a week, passed a measure that would make it a felony for a doctor to fail to perform lifesaving measures on a baby born alive as a result of a botched abortion.
Following the Senate’s Monday night lead, the House passed Senate Bill 359, titled the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors’ Protection Act,” on Tuesday by a 65-46 vote.
Four Democrats – Reps. James Gaillard, D-Nash, Charles Graham, D-Robeson, Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, and Raymond Smith Jr., D-Wayne – joined the Republican majority to voter for the bill.
The bill now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper. His spokeswoman, Sadie Weiner, didn’t respond Monday when asked whether Cooper would veto the bill.
The American Civil Liberties Union quickly called for a veto.
“This extreme anti-abortion bill shamelessly inserts political ideology into the practice of medicine, replacing health care providers’ best judgment with that of politicians,” Susanna Birdsong, senior policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement.
But Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, praised the legislation.
“If an infant survives an abortion, he or she should be treated with the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve its life and health that any other infant receives after birth,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “A so-called ‘right to abortion’ should not translate to a right to a dead child no matter what.”
In addition to prosecuting health care providers, the bill would require anyone with knowledge of such an act to report it to authorities. Mothers could not be prosecuted for failure to provide care.
It’s unclear how often babies are born in such a scenario and even less clear how often doctors fail to take action to save the baby’s life. Late-term abortions, the cases in which a such a birth would be most likely to occur, make up less than 1 percent of all abortions.
Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, insists that infanticide has occurred in North Carolina and described in detail aborted fetuses she saw years ago while training for her former job in medical product sales.
“This has nothing to do with a woman’s decision to abort her baby, noting to do with the procedure itself,” McElraft said. “This is about the baby.”
But House Democrats called the bill unnecessary, saying state law already makes it a crime to kill a living infant, either on purpose or through neglect.
“Does anyone think infanticide is legal in North Carolina?” asked Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe. “There is no problem that this bill is addressing.”
Fisher argued that the “scary-sounding penalties” are solely meant to intimidate doctors who perform abortions.
“It’s time to trust women to make our own health care decisions,” said Rep. Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg. “The women of North Carolina put each of us into office, and the women of North Carolina can take each of us out.”