Senator Cornyn Clarifies Provisions of the Born-Alive Bill

Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 6, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

On the Senate floor yesterday afternoon, Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) delivered brief remarks on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, addressing some of the common misconceptions about the legislation. The bill is sponsored by Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) and will receive a floor vote after the Senate’s upcoming recess.

“It would require doctors to treat babies who survive an abortion with the same life-saving care that other infants receive,” Cornyn said. “You might think surely there are already protections that exist for that newborn baby. That’s got to be the law already, right? Well, sadly not.”

Cornyn is correct. Although Democratic opponents of the legislation protest that it’s unnecessary because, in their terms, infanticide is already illegal, there is in fact no law on the books requiring doctors to provide the same level of medical care to infants who survive abortion procedures that they would to other newborn infants.

“This legislation would build on the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act of 2002 that actually passed the Senate unanimously at the time,” Cornyn went on. “That bill clarified that every infant born alive in any stage of development is a person. Now it’s time to clarify that each person will receive appropriate medical care, no matter what their circumstances, how they happen to be delivered and born.”

When Sasse’s legislation came up for a vote last February, its opponents insisted that the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act passed in 2002 was a sufficient guarantee that born-alive infants would receive medical care. But in fact, that bill merely established that the terms “person,” “human being,” “child,” and “individual” in federal law include every infant born alive. It did not institute any penalties for physicians who neglect to care for infants who survive abortions.

Cornyn concluded his remarks by noting that the born-alive bill “is not an abortion issue.” The senator is correct. Though some media outlets are already referring to the bill as “anti-abortion,” the legislation doesn’t impose any restrictions or regulations on when or whether an abortion may be performed. It requires only that doctors give “the same degree” of care to abortion survivors that “any other child born alive at the same gestational age” would receive if delivered at that stage of pregnancy.

Anyone who refers to this bill as “anti-abortion” either hasn’t read the text, is intentionally misrepresenting its provisions, or sincerely believes that abortion rights include the right to deny medical care to a newborn infant.

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