Pro-life lawmakers filed a discharge petition Tuesday in hopes of forcing a House vote on a bill protecting babies born alive after an abortion.
“Only 29 states have laws requiring at least some protection or standard of care for babies who survive an abortion,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal.
“The American people deserve to know if their representative, whether Republican or Democrat, pro-life or pro-choice, will stand up to protect these innocent newborns,” Scalise added.
Using a procedural tactic know as a discharge petition, Scalise and Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., a sponsor of the legislation, and other pro-life lawmakers are trying to force a floor vote.
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.
At a press conference Tuesday, Wagner said, “We need to make sure that we make this a criminal offense, that we give mothers civil remedies, and that most of all, we give lifesaving care to babies that are born alive.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said of House members, “They have the power themselves to decide whether we can debate this [legislation to protect babies born alive] on the floor. They cannot hide from anyone else. They have to take a position.”
The strategy of a discharge petition, which is not usually 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.
According to McCarthy, Democrats have now 25 times blocked Republicans from taking a vote on the born-alive bill that would protect babies who survive an abortion.
Phil Davidson, the communications director for Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., told The Daily Signal in an email that Lipinski plans to sign the discharge petition.
Lipinski spoke at the March for Life in January, saying, “We have all kinds of ideas on all kinds of different issues … We don’t agree on everything. We have Republicans, independents, Democrats. But we’re all here because we all agree on one thing: Every life is sacred and needs to be protected.”
Monica Burke, a research assistant in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email that the legislation is anything but controversial.
“Children who survive an abortion attempt deserve to receive medical care, just like any other newborn,” Burke said. “Given that current law does not sufficiently protect these infants, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act would be a step towards ensuring that these children receive the urgent medical care they need. This legislation should not be remotely controversial.”
Jessica Anderson, vice president of Heritage Action for America, the lobbying affiliate of The Heritage Foundation, said no lawmaker should be against the born-alive legislation.
“The fact that there are some members of Congress opposed to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act shows just how out of touch they are from the American people,” Anderson said. “There is nothing controversial about extending access to medical care to all babies, no matter where or why they are born. Opposition to this bill is immoral, and every member of the House should be lining up to sign the discharge petition to right this wrong.”
Joshua Nelson contributed to this report.