Dear Readers: In my last blog on An Accidental Life, I set forth some examples of witness testimony on the fact that infants in late term abortions may survive and be born alive. It’s difficult to believe that in such cases there are people who take the position that a born alive infant must be refused medical assistance in order to respect the mother’s right to choose, but that is so. As recently as last summer during the Kermit Gosnell case in which the physician performing abortions was found guilty of killing born alive infants with scissors after birth, there were protesters when he was convicted of murder. A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood insisted that the choice of whether the infant should live or die should be between the mother and the doctor–in other words, the infant had no independent rights.
During the Congressional Committee hearing in 2000 mentioned in my last blog when many witnesses testified that born alive infants were left to die in hospitals and clinics around the country, one Representative took a position during the hearing (H.R. 4292) that 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–her right to choose, by extending protection to fully born, premature infants in “direct contravention of Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions. (Statement of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones in Hearings on the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 106th Cong., July 20, 2000).
I beg to differ. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the rights of an infant born alive during an abortion. I’ll discuss that further in a later blog–or you can check out the reasoning behind the verdict in An Accidental Life. In fact, I’m fairly certain the Court never anticipated such an issue arising.
Another example – on July 20, 2000, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (“NARAL”) issued a press release criticizing the Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2000 because, in NARAL’s view, extending legal personhood to premature born alive infants surviving abortion constitutes an “assault” on Roe v. Wade. (NARAL Statement: Roe v. Wade Faces Renewed Assault in the House: on file with the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Comm. on the Judiciary.)
And if you really want a shock, read Professor Peter Singer’s book ‘Practical Ethics’ (1993). In Practical Ethics, Dr. Singer, a Bioethicist at Princeton University argues that parents should have the option to kill disabled or unhealthy newborn babies for a certain period after birth. Professor Singer has written that “a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to live as others.”
As you may recall, the Born Alive Infant’s Protection Act is a federal, not a state law. It covers only Federal institutions and hospitals. If a state wants to similarly protect infants born within its jurisdiction, it must enact the law. Some states have done that; some have enacted similar statutes with various changes. It’s worth noting however that President Obama is on record has having voted against Illinois enacting the law several times when he was a State Senator, reflecting that his concern was whether the law might diminish the woman’s right to choose.