SB 124 – BORN ALIVE BILL
The goal of abortion is to end a pregnancy and extinguish life in the womb.
But while abortion ends the pregnancy in all cases (and on occasion the life of the mother), some babies escape the womb still alive. What happens to them when the are breathing, making sounds, when their arms and legs are moving or their heart is beating? Does the abortionist kill the baby or provide help to a living person in need of aid?
SB 124, whose sponsor is Sen. Cathy Giessel, addresses that. It’s a bill that provides medical professionals with clarity on the issue of abortion survivor babies. The bills’ next hearing is in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 7 at 1:30 pm, and again March 9 at 1:30 pm.
The bill is “An Act relating to the duties of physicians and health care practitioners when performing or inducing abortions; providing that a child removed from a pregnant woman’s womb alive after an abortion may be surrendered and found to be a child in need of aid; and providing for an effective date.”
The ACLU of Alaska opposes SB 124, saying that the measure would “chip away at a woman’s right to control her body by forcing her to undergo a dangerous medical procedure risking her fertility and even her life. SB 124 is also an unconstitutional infringement on a woman’s fundamental right to privacy.”
But the bill specifically says that if in the doctor’s judgment, which the bill’s language acknowledges is subjective, a child can survive outside the womb and there is not a serious risk to the life or health of the mother, the doctor should use the abortion method that is less likely to kill the child. That might mean bringing the baby out head first, or not severing the spinal cord or head prior to abortion.
Pro-choice advocates struggle to avoid using the word “baby” or “infant” to describe these tiny humans who emerge live from a failed abortion. That difficulty was displayed by Sen. Tom Begich on Feb. 19, when during a Senate Health and Social Services Committee, Begich asked Sen. Giessel a question where he referred to the surviving child as a “fetus,” yet referred to the mother as a “parent.”
“The bill specifies the ‘form to best survive,’ the process to best survive, and this is the conflict that I might have with this legislation,” Begich said. “Would this restrict the choices available then to a doctor which might be much less risky to a parent if it is more viable for a fetus at that point to survive?”
The answer, Giessel said, is no. The decision lies with the physician, who would be in in the best position to know which method of abortion would or would not be risky for the mother.
But the description given by Begich was left unaddressed — is the survivor with a beating heart still a fetus or is it a human being? Begich seemed uncomfortable with being precise.
Giessel, the bill sponsor, is also a nurse practitioner and through her bill is hoping to preserve some infants’ lives, even in an era when the Alaska Supreme Court has made it all but impossible to put sideboards on abortion laws. SB 124 seems to take a “reasonable” approach to at least save a few lives.
HOW MANY MIGHT SURVIVE?
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in Alaska, performing 1,300 of the 1,334 abortions that are on record for 2015. Some 65 percent of Alaska women having abortions were in the first eight weeks of their pregnancies.
The number of babies aborted after 20 weeks in Alaska is variable and it’s not always easy to say exactly what week a baby is in utero.
In 2014, 44 were aborted between 17-20 weeks and 15 were aborted at 21-24 weeks. But in 2015, only 2 were aborted between 17-20 weeks and 1 was aborted at 21-24 weeks. Reporting by abortion providers may be purposefully inaccurate.
Most babies who are born at 24 weeks can survive, if cared for by modern neonatal medicine. The second trimester to a pregnancy extends to about week 27, similar to the infant in the photo illustration above.
BORN-ALIVE BILL IN CONGRESS
This is a movement that has national momentum. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 4712), would give congressionally mandated protection to newborns who survive abortions. The bill says that if the baby survives, he or she is entitled to the same care that any other baby would be given. It also creates criminal penalties of up to five years in prison for health workers who don’t provide the life-saving care.
WASHINGTON STATE TO MAKE INSURERS PAY FOR ELECTIVE ABORTIONS
While Alaska Senate Bill 124 would have medical professionals provide aid to Alaska children born live during failed abortion procedures, Washington State Senate is moving in the opposite direction: It’s requiring all who pay for health insurance to pay for the elective abortions of others.
The Washington Senate has passed a law requiring all health insurance providers to cover both birth control and elective abortions. The Senate passed the bill by 27-22 on Saturday; the House had already passed its version.
Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill.