WASHINGTON – Republicans started a long-shot drive Tuesday to force a House vote on a measure that could imprison doctors for five years if they don’t try saving the lives of infants born during attempted abortions.
Their effort seems likely to fail in the Democratic-controlled House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has refused to allow a vote on the bill. Republicans hope it will be politically damaging for Democrats from moderate districts who oppose the GOP move and see it as a way to energize conservative anti-abortion voters.
“How can you have a leader in Congress say that they think it’s OK to murder a baby once it’s born outside the womb?” No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise, R-La., who’s pushing the effort with Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., said of Pelosi’s blockage of the measure.
Asked about the remark, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill called the GOP measure “yet another front in the Republican war on health care.” He called it “a blatant attempt to criminalize doctors” and said it will fail.
Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California at San Francisco, said it’s inaccurate to suggest that it’s legal to kill a newborn baby. “Any infant born alive during an abortion or otherwise needs to be treated as any live human,” Grossman said.
Opponents of the GOP measure say births during attempted abortions are extremely rare, generally occurring when doctors determine that a child won’t survive and parents opt to spend time with him or her before death.
Jacqueline Ayers, a vice president for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Republicans were “shaming women and criminalizing doctors for a practice that doesn’t exist in reality.” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said Democrats opposing the measure “believe abortion is such an absolute ‘right’ that it protects what amounts to infanticide.”
Republicans have pushed the issue since it arose earlier this year in two states.
Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, spoke favorably in January about state legislation to ease restrictions on late-term abortions. He said “a discussion would ensue” between doctors and the family over the next steps if an infant is born who is badly deformed or incapable of living.
President Donald Trump has criticized a new abortion law in New York that permits abortions of a viable fetus after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the mother’s life is in danger – codifying conditions specified by U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
House Republicans are utilizing a seldom used procedure that forces a vote on a measure once 218 lawmakers, a majority, sign a petition. Aides say all 197 Republicans are expected to sign. Republicans seem likely to fall well short of the 21 Democrats needed to succeed.
By Tuesday evening, the petition had more than 190 signatures, including two Democrats: Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and Ben McAdams of Utah.
Senate Democrats blocked a GOP effort in February to force debate on a similar bill.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.