Commentary

Defending the Born Identity

Hannah Ellis
By Hannah Ellis | June 17, 2016 | 11:11 AM EDT

(AP Photo)

The battle over when life begins ultimately boils down to differing worldviews. But when the conversation flips to life outside the womb, it should be a bipartisan, basic human rights issue … right?

One would think.

Astonishingly, the conversation has in fact moved to babies outside of the womb, and members of Congress are recognizing the need for language which now protects living, breathing babies who are born alive as the result of an attempted abortion.

It is mind-boggling that a child’s right to life outside the womb is even in question. But, seeing as the U.S. is only one of the seven nations in the world that allows abortion past 20 weeks or has no restriction on gestational age — in a camp with nations like Canada, China, The Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam — explains the progression from where such a thought stems. Ultimately, it underscores just how lax we have become about respecting human dignity.  

Currently, there is no federal directive to ensure abortion providers report the care given to infants who survive failed abortions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 2003-13 query shows 362 newborn deaths due to an attempted termination of pregnancy. That said, experts say the actual numbers are likely much greater but go unacknowledged due to voluntary underreporting.

There are numerous stories of failed abortions where infants were born alive, survived, and are now able to testify as adults. Take saline abortion survivor Gianna Jessen, who was born alive after spending 18 hours in a hypertonic saline solution a Planned Parenthood abortion provider had placed in her mother’s womb. The solution was meant to be swallowed/breathed in so as to burn Gianna’s lungs and skin (a very painful process if a child’s pain receptors have developed), blind her, poison her body, and ultimately kill her.

However, the attempt to abort Gianna failed, and she was born alive in the clinic. Fortunately, on that day the abortionist was not in the office yet and a nurse called an ambulance instead. Had the abortionist been there, he most likely would have ended her life.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, S. 2066, was introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) to ensure that children like Gianna are not at the will of abortion providers. Within its language are parameters to make sure human beings outside the womb receive the basic protection which they, under law, have the most basic, unalienable right to — not to mention one which our own Declaration of Independence declares endowed by their Creator. At the very least, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 established that “the words ‘person,’ ‘human being,’ ‘child,’ and ‘individual’ shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.”

It is ludicrous to need to define the phrase “born alive,” but for the purposes of this legislation, it is important to reiterate that U.S. Code Title 1 Section 8 decrees that “born alive” refers to “the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother of that member, at any stage in development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.”

If an attempted abortion fails and a baby is born alive, Sen. Sasse’s bill would ensure that any health care practitioner, hospital staff, physician’s office, or abortion clinic provides at least the same degree of care as they would to any other born-alive child. Any of the aforementioned providers who do not comply will be fined and/or imprisoned for violating the law. It is notable that there is grace for the mothers—many of whom will often regret their decision; under this ruling, the mother of the child born alive would not be criminalized. Those practitioners who intentionally kill or attempt to kill a child born alive under any circumstance will be penalized under Title 18 section 1111 — meaning it is considered murder under criminal law.

Rightly so.

Whether you agree or disagree that life begins at conception should have little bearing on your support for policies that protect children that are born alive. Allowing physicians to harm a human being after they have been born into the world is a basic human rights violation and, quite frankly, we Americans should be ashamed that it doesn’t already go without saying. It is our duty to hold our leaders accountable and urge them to protect the sanctity of life. For, if our nation fails to uphold the most basic securities of life and liberty to all born human beings, the continued crumbling of our nation’s foundation is sure to follow.

Hannah Wegman serves as a policy analyst for Concerned Women for America, the largest public policy women's organization in the nation.

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