President Bush Signs Born Alive Infants Protection Act
in Pittsburgh Ceremony Attended by NRLC Officials
PITTSBURGH (August 5, 2002) — At a ceremony in Pittsburgh attended by NRLC officials and other pro-life advocates, President Bush signed into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, a bill strongly backed by NRLC.
The law guarantees that every infant born alive enjoys full legal rights under federal law, regardless of his or her stage of development or whether the live birth occurred during an abortion.
“This important legislation ensures that every infant born alive — including an infant who survives an abortion procedure — is considered a person under federal law,” the President said before signing the bill. He added, “Today, through sonograms and other technology, we can see clearly that unborn children are members of the human family, as well.
“The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act is a step toward the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. It is a step toward the day when the promises of the Declaration of Independence will apply to everyone, not just those with the voice and power to defend their rights.” (To read, hear an audio recording, or view a video recording of President Bush’s remarks, click here.)
Among those invited to and attending the ceremony were NRLC President Wanda Franz, Ph.D., and NRLC Federal Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. Also in attendance were four leaders of the state’s NRLC affiliate, the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation: Board President Sue Rogacs, Executive Director Michael Ciccocioppo, Legislative/PAC Director Mary Beliveau, and Board Treasurer Robert Boehner.
Also attending were a number of other persons well known in pro-life circles, including Hadley Arkes, a Princeton professor and author who conceived of such legislation years ago; Gianna Jessen, who survived an attempted saline abortion in 1977; Jill Stanek, a nurse who testified before a congressional committee about infants born alive during labor induction abortions; and Watson Bowes, M.D., a leading authority on maternal and fetal medicine.
President Bush was flanked by the prime congressional sponsors of the bill, Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), as he signed the measure into law. (The original author of the bill, Congressman Charles Canady of Florida, has since retired from Congress, and was unable to attend the event because of a previous commitment.) The President was in Pittsburgh to meet with a group of recently rescued coal miners and to attend a political fund-raiser. Santorum previously represented a Pittsburgh-area congressional district in the House of Representatives.
NRLC, which worked for over two years in support of the legislation, applauded the event.
Dr. Franz, who was presented with one of the three pens that President Bush used to sign the bill, said afterwards, “The president thanked us all for working to achieve this legislation. I accept that thanks on behalf of NRLC’s members and supporters all across the country.”
NRLC Legislative Director Johnson said, “This law is badly needed, because some people in our society have convinced themselves that some newborn infants –– particularly those born alive during abortions, or with handicaps — are not really legal persons. Even in stories about this bill, we have some journalists referring to these babies by the term ‘fetus’ after they have been born alive.”
Johnson added, “The next logical step is enactment of legislation dealing with infants who are mostly born – the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The President is eager to sign that bill, as well – but the question is, will the Senate Democratic leadership allow it to come to a vote?”
In 2000, Jill Stanek and another nurse testified before a congressional panel that they witnessed premature infants left to die without comfort care after early labor was induced as an abortion method.
The principle established by the bill is not limited to the abortion context. It also bears, for example, on the question of the right to life of babies born with handicaps.
In introducing the original bill in 2000, Congressman Canady noted, “The principle that born-alive infants are entitled to the protection of the law is being questioned at one of America’s most prestigious universities. 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.’” (To read Congressman Canady’s complete statement click here)
What the Bill Does
Babies whose lungs are insufficiently developed to permit sustained survival are often spontaneously delivered alive, and may live for hours or days. Others are delivered alive during attempted late-term abortions or even as a method of late-term abortion. The bill would codify (for federal law purposes) the traditional definition of “born alive” that is already found in the laws of most states: complete expulsion from the mother, accompanied by heartbeat, respiration, and/or voluntary movements. The bill would also codify the principle that wherever the terms “person,” “human being,” “child,” or “individual” appears in federal laws or regulations, they “shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.” The bill defines a child as “born alive” only if it displays the specified vital sign(s) after “the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother” — in other words, after pregnancy has ended.
The bill explicitly states that it does not “affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of species homo sapiens at any point prior to being ‘born alive’.” In other words, the law addresses only the legal status of infants born alive, and has no application in either direction in debates over the legal rights of unborn children.
History of the Bill
When the legislation was originally introduced in 2000, it was attacked by some pro-abortion groups. But they later greatly muted their criticism, and did not actively oppose the bill’s progress through Congress. However, some continued to express discomfort with the measure in interviews with journalists.
The legislation originally passed the House of Representatives 380-15 on September 26, 2000, but that bill was killed in the Senate by objection from one or more anonymous senators at the end of the 106th Congress.
The legislation was reintroduced in the current Congress by Congressman Chabot as H.R. 2175. It passed the House on March 12, 2002, by a voice vote, and on July 18, at the initiative of Senator Santorum, cleared the Senate by unanimous consent.
For Further Information
A letter from NRLC to the Senate explaining the need for the law, a memo to journalists explaining why the term “fetus” is not appropriate in describing the live-born infants covered by the law, and other documents on the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act are posted on the NRLC website.
To read the official report of the House Judiciary Committee on the bill, click here.