Anti-choice activists and their allies in the U.S. House of Representatives tried this week to reinvigorate their unsuccessful effort to force a vote on controversial anti-abortion legislation.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) hosted a Tuesday event centered on the dubiously named “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” (HR 962). The congressional lawmakers behind the event characterized it in a memo as a “minority hearing.” The anti-choice website Life News described it as “a special event in a hearing style designed to bring public attention” to the issue, not an official hearing.
HR 962 would require medical providers to “exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.” Legislation of this nature is based on myth: Experts say births after failed abortions are incredibly rare. It is already illegal to intentionally end the life of an infant, and similar legislation was already signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002.
“There is no evidence that this is a problem,” Dr. Daniel Grossman, an abortion provider and director of the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at the University of California, San Francisco, told Rewire.News ahead of the hearing. “It is exceedingly rare for an infant to be born alive after terminating the pregnancy. Most of the cases appear to be pregnancies with fetal malformations or genetic abnormalities where it was known the fetus would not be able to survive. Labor was induced in these cases, and palliative care was given to the baby, who died shortly thereafter.”
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The bill’s supporters say HR 962 would expand on the Bush-era law.
Republican lawmakers still hope to gather the 218 signatures required to force a vote on the anti-abortion legislation through the use of a procedural tool called a discharge petition. The petition, which began circulating in April, has been signed by 201 members of the House, including three Democrats—Reps. Dan Lipinski (IL), Ben McAdams (UT), and Collin Peterson (MN).
During her introduction to the event, Wagner attempted to justify the legislation by pointing to efforts to expand abortion access in New York, Virginia, and Illinois. She called those Democratic pro-choice lawmakers “radical legislators” and falsely claimed they had “moved to strip protections for babies who survive abortions.”
When given the opportunity to ask questions, Smith deployed charged language about abortion and claimed infants are “being killed with impunity.” He accused medical providers and the media of engaging in a “cover-up” on the issue.
Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) also lambasted the New York state legislature for expanding access to reproductive health care, referring to the state’s Reproductive Health Act (RHA) as a “murder bill.” That legislation codified the protections of Roe v. Wade in the state and allowed abortions after 24 weeks when the pregnant person’s health is at risk or the fetus is not viable.
As New York state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) explained in a FAQ on the Reproductive Health Act, if an abortion resulted in a live birth “the medical practitioner and medical support staff would provide all necessary care, just as they would in the case of any live birth. The RHA does not change standards of medical practice. Any baby born alive in New York State would be treated like any other live birth, and given appropriate medical care. This was the case before the RHA, and it remains the case now.”
Only anti-choice advocates provided “testimony” at Tuesday’s event. One of the witnesses was Dr. Kathi Aultman, a purveyor of misinformation about abortion who appeared alongside Vice President Mike Pence in January. Aultman is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the “research” branch of the Susan B. Anthony List.
HR 962’s supporters have been transparent about their desire to force Democrats to take a position on the measure. “I think a lot of swing voters who moved toward Democrats in the last election will look at this issue,” Scalise told the Washington Free Beacon in April. In their memo about Tuesday’s event, the Republicans behind the legislation wrote that the hearing was intended to highlight the refusal of the House’s pro-choice majority to take up the bill.
Scalise’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Rewire.News.
Tuesday’s event coincided with a day of lobbying for HR 962 from anti-choice group Priests for Life. The organization planned to “gather up to 100 people” to visit Democratic members of Congress about the bill, according to the organization’s website.
Ahead of the event, the organization’s president, Father Frank Pavone, claimed several congressional lawmakers had already agreed to talk to activists about the matter. Priests for Life did not answer Rewire.News’ request for comment.