House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) filed a discharge petition for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act Tuesday. The petition needs 218 signatures to force a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The bill would make it a crime for a doctor to refuse to provide age-appropriate medical care to an infant who survived an abortion procedure. It also would provide mothers with the opportunity to file a civil claim against their doctor.
Speaking at a press conference April 2, several members of Congress criticized Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for her refusal to give the bill a hearing. House Republicans have requested that the legislation be considered 25 times.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), chairwoman of the Republican Conference, said that for her colleagues to truly be for the people, “that has to start with being for the most vulnerable among us, for the babies.”
“If you don’t stand with the babies, and you won’t protect the babies, you are not for the people.”
Scalise echoed Cheney’s point.
“All of us here today have a message for Nancy Pelosi: if you won't bring it up, we'll bring it up,” he said. “And that's what this discharge petition is about."
“How can you be a leader in Congress and say that they think it’s okay to murder a baby once it is born outside the womb?” Scalise asked. “It’s happening, and we’re here to make it stop.”
Scalise said that the practice of denying medical care to infants who survive abortions is “not only wrong, it’s murder” and that this should not be legal. The Born-Alive Act would make laws “consistent all across the board” to ensure that babies are cared for.
The bill must garner the signatures of a simple majority of the House of Representatives. Scalise acknowledged that this will be an “uphill battle” in the Democrat-controlled House.
“But we don’t come here to do the easy things,” he said. “We come here because it’s hard.”
The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), said that her legislation was “a measure that has passed with bipartisan support in the past.”
Presently, 26 states have some sort of legal protection for babies who survive abortions. Wagner said that it was important that this be extended throughout the entire country.
“We need to make sure that we make this a criminal act,” said Wagner. “That we give mothers civil remedies, and that most of all, we give life-saving care to babies that are born alive.”
Wagner said she was grateful for the “brave” Democrats willing to sign the discharge petition. Right now, three Democrats have agreed to co-sponsor the bill.
“The Constitution provides for life, liberty, and equal protection under the law,” said Wagner. “Our founding fathers didn’t put an age limit on that.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) expressed shock that 25 requests for the bill to be considered had gone unanswered. He said that it should not come down to a discharge petition to protect the life of a newborn baby, and rejected the idea that this is a partisan issue.
“This isn’t about Republican or Democrat, it’s about life,” said McCarthy.
The members of Congress were joined at the press conference by three young women who were themselves survivors of attempted abortions.
Melissa Ohden was born at about 31 weeks of gestation, following her teenage mother’s attempted saline abortion. She described herself as “one of the children who deserve to be protected by the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.”
Ohden said that after her birth, she was “laid aside” at the hospital, until a nurse saved her life and provided her with care.
“My life never should have been left in the hands of the abortionist that day,” said Ohden. “My life never should have been to the luck of the draw of who was working that day at the hospital.”
As part of the Abortion Survivors Network, Ohden said she has been in contact with 281 other abortion survivors. She urged lawmakers to give her and her fellow survivors “the basic dignity we deserve. Give us healthcare. It is a right.”
“We fought for our lives in the womb. Do not make us fight for our lives once again when we’re born alive.”