Pro-life lawmakers hope to force a House vote on a bill protecting babies born alive after an abortion, in the wake of the Senate’s failure Monday to collect enough votes to pass a similar measure.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said at a press conference Tuesday that he applauds his colleagues who are “ready to engage in this battle … and get the country engaged.”
Scalise said he wants Americans to call their member of Congress and ask him or her to sign on to a parliamentary procedure “so that even though [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to give those babies who were born alive the same legal protection that everybody else enjoys, we can still force a vote by getting 218 signatures.”
Turning to a procedural tactic know as a discharge petition, Scalise joined Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., a sponsor of the legislation, and other pro-life lawmakers who want to force a floor vote.
“The bills and the laws we’ve seen in New York and Virginia and other states are horrifying,” Wagner said at the press conference, referring to the decision by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, to sign a bill Jan. 22 legalizing abortion up to the time of birth, and to similar legislation proposed in Virginia but voted down Jan. 28.
“That’s why we’re here today,” she said. “They’re horrifying.”
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would require medical professionals to give the same medical care to a baby who survives an abortion as they would to any other baby of the same age, as well as to take the baby to a hospital.
If an abortionist intentionally kills the child who was born alive, he or she would face fines or up to five years in jail, according to a press release from Scalise.
The strategy of a discharge petition, which is rarely successful, requires gathering at least 218 signatures from House members to oblige the chamber’s Democrat leadership to bring the bill to the floor for debate and a vote.
Discharge petitions may be considered on the second and fourth Mondays of the month when the House is in session.
Republicans currently hold 197 seats compared with Democrats’ 235 seats, meaning Republicans would have to acquire 21 signatures from Democrats to force a floor vote.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who also spoke at the press conference, said the bill has nothing to do with women’s abortion rights, as opponents have claimed.
“There’s no way she will be prosecuted,” Smith said of mothers in such a circumstance, “but it creates a standard of care that that child who is born during the abortion process … should be treated just like any other preemie, rushed to a hospital [and] given the kind of resuscitation and care that any other preemie would receive.”
“We hope that the House and we call on Speaker Pelosi, as a matter of humanitarianism, to bring up this very important, life-saving bill.”
Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania were the only Democrats who joined Republicans in the Senate vote Monday on the bill to protect survivors of abortion.
“I have accumulated a long list of grievances with the other body, but this is the most egregious, the most egregious lapse that I have seen out of the United States Senate,” Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said of Senate Democrats’ opposition to the legislation.
“[It is] unconscionable that they could not advance this legislation, unconscionable that they would derail it,” Burgess said.
Three Republican senators—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota—were not present for the vote.
Jessica Anderson, vice president of Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of The Heritage Foundation, tweeted that the House legislation “is not about being pro-life or pro-choice.”
Rather, she said, it is “about whether or not health care professionals will provide health care on the table to our most … vulnerable patients.”