UPDATE: Laura Clawson
Moving fast, House Republicans have passed the “born alive” bill similar to the measure rejected by Montana voters in November and basically replicating an existing 2002 law. It’s a pure statement of intention that House Republicans are ultimately looking to ban abortion.
Republican hopes for a 2022 red wave crashed in large part because of voters angry about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and the state-level abortion bans that followed. In fact, voters are still acting on that anger, with Democrats just this week flipping a Virginia state Senate seat that could be decisive in whether Republicans are able to pass a 15-week abortion ban. So what are Republicans now trying to do with their narrower-than-expected House majority? Pass anti-abortion laws.
The first few bills a new Congress passes are intended to show the priorities of the party in control. “This is what we stand for,” they’re saying, “even if it doesn’t make it into law.” House Republicans are bringing up two anti-abortion bills as soon as this week, which tells us a lot.
RELATED STORY: Republicans lament—if only they had talked more about abortion
One of the bills is a perennial Republican favorite: the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” which they bring up regularly. Montana voters, not known for being a liberal set of people, rejected a version of this bill at the polls in November.
The bill rests on the falsehood that babies are regularly born alive following abortion and that doctors do not offer medical care to babies born this way that could survive. In reality, medical care for such infants is already guaranteed by an existing 2002 law, and no doctor would look at a newborn with a reasonable chance of survival and do anything but provide care. So the Republican bill is pure messaging, which we know because it simply puts a new title on something that the existing law already ensures.
”The 2002 Born-Alive Infants Protection Act gives absolutely every protection that you would ever want or need for an infant who was born at any stage of development. In that situation, you want parents to be able to decide what the care for their child looks like,” Dr. Lauren Wilson, a hospital pediatrician and the president of the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told 19th News.
Additionally, the number of live births and subsequent neonatal deaths following induced termination is vanishingly low—143 over 12 years, 97 of which involved fetal anomalies or a maternal complication, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In other words, like most abortions performed late enough in pregnancy for survival to be possible, these were abortions chosen because of fetal anomalies incompatible with life or to protect the health of the mother. A substantial majority of these parents would have loved to go home with a healthy baby, but it was not going to be possible. And under those circumstances, having doctors surround an infant in the short time it has to live—less than four hours, in the vast majority of the cases the CDC tracked—and try to prolong its life just a little more can be a cruelty, prolonging the baby’s suffering and preventing the parents from having a few quiet moments to hold their child.
What should happen is that “parents would be able to decide whether they want to hold their baby, whether they want to have their pastor present, whether they want to take pictures, and they shouldn’t be required to seek medical care for that baby if the determination is clear to everyone that the baby is not going to survive,” Wilson told 19th News.
A second anti-abortion bill House Republicans plan to bring up would be a resolution “condemning the recent attacks on pro-life facilities, groups, and churches.” Republicans are silent on violence against abortion providers—between 1993 and 2016 there were 11 murders of doctors, clinic staff, and others involved in providing abortion, and 26 attempted murders. From 2020 to 2022, there were dozens of cases of violence by abortion opponents at clinics that rose to the level of being prosecuted by the Justice Department. Those included bomb threats; physical assaults on clinic escorts; and damage to clinics done with a slingshot, a pellet gun, and a concrete block.
A third planned anti-abortion bill would permanently codify the Hyde Amendment’s ban on Medicaid funding of abortions, “as well as similar provisions to prohibit federal funding for abortion and funding for any insurance plan that includes abortion on demand.” In other words, anyone whose health coverage comes through the federal government in any way would be affected.
And of course none of this is enough for anti-abortion groups, which are urging Republicans to be more extreme and talk about abortion more if they want the support of those groups in 2024.
Remember when Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a national 15-week abortion ban and other Senate Republicans shifted uncomfortably in their seats and tried to change the subject? And some of us warned that all those Republicans mumbling about how abortion should be a state issue would absolutely vote for a federal ban if they got control of the Senate? The House is showing us the truth of that warning. Even after voters punished Republicans for abortion bans and voted to protect abortion rights in states like Michigan and Kansas and Kentucky, Republicans are taking their slim House majority and planning to use it to immediately start passing anti-abortion bills. Those bills won't get through the Senate, of course, and they wouldn’t get President Joe Biden’s signature. But Republicans are once again telling us what they would do if they got full control of government.
Ticket splitters were highly aware of national abortion discussion, paving way for a choice election
Happy New Year! Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter is on the show today to talk about the wild garbage fire that was the Republican speaker of the House vote. Kerry and Markos also break down what this onionskin-thin conservative majority can and cannot do in the coming year, as well as what the Democratic representatives can do to make Kevin McCarthy’s life just that much tougher.