Since I had gotten so worked up about the responses to the Infants Born Alive Protection Act, I decided to look up an objective source of information. I found quite a bit of it. What I'll be commenting on in this particular post is House Report 107-186.
[Footnote] the United States Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortion, a procedure in which an abortionist dilates a pregnant woman's cervix, delivers the unborn child's body until only the head remains inside of the mother, punctures the back of the child's skull with scissors, and sucks the child's brains out before completing the delivery. It is a matter of public record that this grisly abortion procedure is extremely painful to the child, is never medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother, and indeed is dangerous to women who undergo it. In the words of the American Medical Association, partial-birth abortion is `not medically indicated' in any situation and is `not good medicine.' 5
[Footnote 4: 530 U.S. 914 (2000).]
[Footnote 5: Letter from P. John Seward, M.D., Executive Vice President, American Medical Association, to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (May 19, 1997) (on file with the Constitution Subcomm. of the House Comm. on the Judiciary).]
Notwithstanding the compelling record against partial-birth abortion, the Carhart Court held that the abortion right created in Roe v. Wade encompasses the right to partial-birth abortion. That is, what was described in Roe v. Wade as a right to abort `unborn children' has now been extended by the Court to include the brutal killing of partially-born children just inches from birth. The Carhart Court based its bizarre conclusion on claims by abortionists that partially delivering an infant before killing it is safer for the mother because it requires less `instrumentation' in the birth canal and reduces the risk of complications from `retained fetal body parts.' 6
[Footnote] As discussed below, these same claims would support an abortionist's argument that fully delivering an infant before killing it is safer for the mother and is, therefore, constitutionally protected.
[Footnote 6: See Carhart, 530 U.S. at 926, 928-31.]
The Carhart Court thus thwarted Nebraska's efforts (and the efforts of numerous other States) to, in the words of Justice Thomas in dissent, `prohibit a procedure that approaches infanticide, and thereby dehumanizes the fetus and trivializes human life.' 7
If there was ever anything that illustrates that the child is, indeed, a child in or outside the womb, it this procedure! So what? We can still call it "tissue" because its head is still inside? That head that is inside is controlling the arms and legs and heart that is outside!
The logical implications of Carhart and Farmer are both obvious and disturbing. Under the logic of these decisions, once a child is marked for abortion, it is wholly irrelevant whether that child emerges from the womb as a live baby. That child may still be treated as though he or she did not exist, and would not have any rights under the law--no right to receive medical care, to be sustained in life, or to receive any care at all. And if a child who survives an abortion and is born alive would have no claim to the protections of the law, there would, then, be no basis upon which the government may prohibit an abortionist from completely delivering an infant before killing it or allowing it to die. The `right to abortion,' under this logic, means nothing less than the right to a dead baby, no matter where the killing takes place.
Credible public testimony received by the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary indicates that this is, in fact, already occurring. According to eyewitness accounts, `induced-labor' or `live-birth' abortions are indeed being performed, resulting in live-born premature infants who are simply allowed to die, sometimes without the provision of even basic comfort care such as warmth and nutrition.
And usually that baby would have been a perfectly healthy baby. These babies don't have to be born prematurely; but they are because their moms don't recognize that their bodies are not their own anymore. When that baby was conceived, Mommy became the host for another person who is totally dependent on her. So I think it's a very positive thing that this is being recognized finally. The only difference between an abortion and the killing of a newborn baby is what we call it and when it's done.
The purposes of H.R. 2175, the `Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2001' are:
(1) to repudiate the flawed notion that a child's entitlement to the protections of the law is dependent upon whether that child's mother or others want him or her;
(2) to repudiate the flawed notion that the right to an abortion means the right to a dead baby, regardless of where the killing takes place;
(3) to affirm that every child who is born alive--whether as a result of induced abortion, natural labor, or caesarean section--bears an intrinsic dignity as a human being which is not dependent upon the desires, interests, or convenience of any other person, and is entitled to receive the full protections of the law; and
(4) Ìto establish firmly that, for purposes of Federal law, the term `person' includes an infant who is completely expelled or extracted from his or her mother and who is alive, regardless of whether or not the baby's development is believed to be, or is in fact, sufficient to permit long-term survival, and regardless of whether the baby survived an abortion.
Numbers 3 and 4 are, of course, what the preemie parents have difficulty with. They perceive that this law steps on the toes of "informed choice." Yet further discussion in this report makes it clear that the issue is the concept that children whose parents decide "not to give birth" but who survive the procedure have no legal rights.
The logical implications of Stenberg and Farmer are both obvious and disturbing. If the right to abortion entails the right to kill without regard to whether the child remains in the mother's womb, and a child's entitlement to the protections of the law depends upon whether or not the child's mother intends to abort the child or give birth, it follows that infants who are marked for abortion but somehow survive and are born alive have no legal rights under the law--no right to receive medical care, to be sustained in life, or receive any care at all.
So items 3 and 4 assume that premature infants born naturally or via C-section already have the right to medical care, and this fact is stated in order to equalize the rights of the preemie and the rights of the abortion survivor.
[Footnote] For example, the chairman of Family Planning Australia, Gab Kovacs, contends that babies who survive abortions `should be left to succumb in peace, on a cot in a back room, for example.' 18
I doubt it's very "peaceful" for the baby.
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones took a similar position during the Subcommittee on the Constitution's hearing on H.R. 4292. According to Rep. Jones, providing legal personhood to premature infants who survive abortions `is an attempt to do what the U.S. Supreme Court has strictly forbidden over and over--it unduly restricts a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.' 22
Oh, you've terminated your pregnancy all right. You're not pregnant anymore. But what this issue is about isn't just the pregnant condition of your body. This issue is really about the fact that you didn't plan to have a child and you want to get rid of it. What on earth would be wrong with giving that child care and placing him/her for adoption? Nope, no can do--you'd always wonder about that child, wouldn't you? Better to just "let her die," isn't it. Then you can pretend that you never were pregnant in the first place.
The reason these statutes do not define a live birth as dependent upon the infant's gestational age is fairly obvious. Many infants are born alive at 20 to 22 weeks and survive for hours, even though their lung capacity typically does not permit sustained survival. Under the prevailing standards of medical care, such infants are understood to be born-alive persons and are treated as such, even though they may only live for a short time. They are, for example, treated humanely, given comfort care, and issued a death certificate. And an individual could not escape criminal prosecution for entering a neonatal intensive care unit and murdering one of these infants simply because the infant will only survive for a short time.
Many infants are also born-alive at 23 weeks, and currently have at least a 39% chance of sustained survival, and at 24 weeks with a greater than 50% chance of sustained survival, with the odds improving all of the time. Determining whether any given one of these children should be treated as a born-alive person, on the basis of his or her ultimate viability, could only be accomplished retrospectively, by looking at whether the child actually survived. The law has avoided this conundrum by defining a live birth without regard to the gestational age of the child.
I wonder if these parents of preemies who talk so adamantly about "informed choice" would flinch at the idea of a baby being left to die alone in some back room in a box. These are parents who get to hold their babies as they die naturally because their bodies are not developed enough for sustained survival. There is a big difference in letting life and death take their natural course peacefully and abandoning a baby simply because the mother never meant to have it in the first place.
The principle that born-alive infants are entitled to the protection of the law is also being questioned at one of America's most prestigious universities. In his 1993 book Practical Ethics, Princeton University Bioethicist Peter Singer argues that parents should have the option to kill disabled or unhealthy newborn babies for a certain period after birth. According to Professor Singer, `a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to live as others.'
This contention is based on Professor Singer's view that the life of a newborn baby is `of no greater value than the life of a nonhuman animal at a similar level of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc.' According to Professor Singer, `killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all.'
Talk about a slippery slope! What does 28 days have to do with anything? ... And many states even have laws against killing animals. Do you find it any surprise that these kind of statements bring up that "survival guilt" I wrote about earlier? I'm a disabled person. If Singer's views had been reflected in the law 33 years ago, I could have been killed simply because I wasn't "good enough." Would I have been? Am I "good enough" now? Or am I simply allowed to live because I'm too old to be killed?
[Footnote] Surprisingly, Baby Hope lived for 3 hours, without the benefit of an incubator or other intensive care, and breathing room air, but her condition was not reassessed by the physicians. 47
[Footnote] And although it is impossible to determine at this point whether a reassessment would have made any difference in Baby Hope's ultimate survival, the lack of any such reassessment, coupled with the attending physician's initial placement of then-breathing Baby Hope in a specimen dish, at least raises serious questions as to whether a similarly-situated infant who was wanted by her mother would have received the same treatment.
This is the crux of my point. I remember talking with a mom of quadruplets who had three surviving. She had made the choice to disconnect life support for the fourth because treatments were unsuccessful and the child was likely to continue needing extraordinary treatments just to survive. One of her other children was neglected for several hours because her chances of survival were deemed too low. She survived in spite of this, and she now has severe multiple disabilities. I have a feeling those disabilities, would be a lot less severe if she hadn't suffered lack of oxygen in addition to premature birth. This is my point: that a child should have the right to care that is determined to provide the opportunity for assessment of the potential for survival and what treatments would be needed; and if the parents don't want the responsibility of those decisions, then someone should be appointed to make them, just as would be done for an older child or adult.
Now let's take a look at the full text of the bill.
SEC. 2. DEFINITION OF BORN-ALIVE INFANT.
(a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
`Sec. 8. `Person', `human being', `child', and `individual' as including born-alive infant
`(a) In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, 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.
`(b) As used in this section, the term `born alive', with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother of that member, at any stage of 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 umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.
`(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being `born alive' as defined in this section.'.
(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:
`8. `Person', `human being', `child', and `individual' as including born-alive infant.'.
That's it. This isn't a law demanding that premature infants be given "heroic measures" no matter what. This is a law giving abortion survivors the right to basic human care. It's not the baby's fault the abortion didn't work, and even many "pro-choice" people would likely change their tunes when confronted with a breathing, moving baby. That's pretty well demonstrated in the testimonies of two nurses discussed in the report cited above.
It seems that the inciting piece here was an article in Reason regarding the act and its potential "collision with constantly improving medical technologies."
Current law effectively leaves the disposition of frozen embryos produced to treat infertility in the hands of would be parents. Parents can decide if embryos will be implanted, donated, or destroyed. Similarly, parents bear the responsibility for deciding what measures should be taken to treat very premature newborns. Frozen embryos, futuristic 12 week gestational fetuses in artificial wombs, and 21 week newborns "born alive" are not "viable" without the application of extraordinary medical ingenuity. No matter what medical miracles become available, the decision of whether or not to apply those technological miracles to help bring a new child into the world should remain in the hands of parents and their physicians, not politicians.
This isn't about premature infants, and if Mr. Ronald Bailey had researched the bill completely I think he would have figured that out. This is about babies being treated like pieces of garbage because they weren't wanted, babies who don't even get to die in someone's arms! Is that what we should do with these preemies during their dying process? I have a hard time envisioning a preemie parent agreeing, "Yes, take away the life support and then just leave my baby on the counter in the back room until she dies."