The Wyoming legislature will again consider a bill to protect infants born alive in legal abortion attempts. Its backers say it is needed to push abortion doctors to provide health care to any baby who survives an abortion.
Deacon Mike Leman, legislative liaison for the Diocese of Cheyenne, told CNA Jan. 8 that abortion providers “aren’t confused by the euphemisms.”
“They know the law separating ‘reproductive rights’ from a crime is arbitrary right now,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves if a provider who sets out to end the life of an unborn child is suddenly capable of switching to life saving mode without clear direction to do so. Especially in a state where providers who have a history of ignoring statutes in the first place.”
In March 2020 the Wyoming House of Representatives passed the bill 44-16 and the Senate passed it by 23-7, but the governor vetoed it.
The new bill, titled “Born alive infant-means of care,” is numbered Senate Filing 34. Its sponsor is State Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, a Republican. As of Jan. 8, she is joined by five other senators and nine state representatives who co-sponsored the legislation, according to the Wyoming legislature’s website.
Backers of the bill have said it would help protect babies born in all circumstances, KGAB radio reports. They said the bill would help prevent laws that allow abortion up to the point of birth, like those recently enacted in New York and Virginia. Some critics of the bill said decisions about abortion are between a woman and her doctor.
Republican Gov. Mark Gordon, who says he is pro-life, in March 2020 said he vetoed the bill because existing state laws already “protect children from being denied life-saving care simply because they were born as a result of an abortion.”
He argued the bill would “harm people it never intended to harm: parents who want a child, but have received the devastating news that their pregnancy is not viable.”
The 2021 legislation requires “the commonly accepted means of care to be employed in the treatment of any infant born alive.” Any physician who performs an abortion must take “medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of an infant born alive.”
Leman said the bill merits reconsideration.
“Governor Gordon’s veto letter expressed thoughts that existing language in statute was strong enough,” he said.
But for Leman, it is “subtle but important” to change the law to require medical care for “any other infant born alive.”
“It highlights the fact that receiving life-saving treatment should not depend upon whether one is wanted or not,” he said. “An unwanted unborn child doesn’t suddenly become wanted simply because it passes the birth canal.”
Leman said there was a good chance that the governor’s veto last could have been overridden.
“But since the bill’s passage came at the end of the session and he didn’t veto it until days later, and we were just experiencing the first wave of COVID, an override vote became impossible,” Lemen said. “So there is reason to be optimistic the legislature can get this done this year.”
In an essay for the spring 2020 edition of the Wyoming Catholic Register, “Defense of Life Bills and Abortion Oversight in Wyoming,” Leman said that the need to re-enforce doctors’ medical responsibilities is shown by “gruesome cases” like Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who in 2013 was convicted of murdering three babies born alive and the involuntary manslaughter of a patient at his clinic.
“Opponents of abortion restrictions routinely say that the legislature has no business coming between a patient and her doctor,” said Leman. “But what happens when doctors admit that, because of age, they don’t consider half of the people entering their office to be patients? Does the Hippocratic Oath apply to a person who is deemed ‘not a patient’?”
“Advancing the common good requires seeing people who are negatively impacted by current laws,” he continued. “This is true whether considering the working poor, the uninsured, the immigrant, the elderly, the unborn, or the infant who survives an abortion attempt. Although we can’t save every life, our laws should not pretend those lives don’t exist.”