House Republicans approved a pair of abortion bills this week, just a few months after their disappointing performance in the 2022 midterm elections that even some top Republicans like former President Donald Trump attributed to extreme abortion policies.
Both proposals are likely to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The futile attempt to pass anti-abortion legislation comes on the heels of a letter sent to Republicans in the House from dozens of conservative and religious groups. The letter includes a list of anti-choice demands such as passing a law to protect infants born alive during an abortion and a national ban after six weeks.
It also follows last year’s Supreme Court decision repealing federal abortion rights, which played a huge role in boosting Democratic turnout in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans who confidently predicted a “red wave” all year long were stunned in November when they failed to win the Senate and only win an extremely small majority in the House.
Trump himself blamed the GOP’s midterm losses partly on Republicans’ handling of the abortion issue, singling out those who backed no exceptions to bans on the procedure, including in instances of rape and incest. (The former president did so without mentioning the fact that many of the candidates he endorsed did this very thing).
The decision to hold votes on abortion legislation in the first week of the GOP’s new House majority, despite the bruising election losses, was too much for one Republican congresswoman, who has been particularly outspoken about the issue.
“We learned nothing from the midterms if this is how we’re going to operate in the first week. Millions of women across the board were angry over overturning Roe v. Wade,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told reporters on Tuesday. “What we’re doing this week is paying lip service to life. Nothing that we’re doing this week on protecting life is ever going to make it through the Senate.”
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which passed 220-210 on Wednesday, would require physicians to provide life-sustaining care to infants born after an attempted abortion and threatens doctors with criminal penalties if they don’t comply. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) reintroduced the legislation earlier this week, along with original Republican co-sponsors Reps. Steve Scalise (La.) and Kat Cammack (Fla.).
“All children should have the right to receive life saving care, especially those who survive an abortion,” Wagner said in a Monday statement.
“The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act will provide common sense protections for innocent children and their mothers and will ensure all babies receive the essential care they need at an incredibly vulnerable moment. It pains me that this fight has to be fought at all, but medical care for babies should not be a partisan issue.”
But similar to other anti-choice legislation, the bill is chock-full of misinformation and creates more barriers to care. Reproductive rights advocates and physicians critical of the bill argue that it’s nearly impossible for infants to be born alive during abortions later in pregnancy. Bills like this are also redundant: Murder is already illegal in the U.S. If that’s not enough, the rights of an infant or newborn are already protected by a 2002 law that codified that infants have the same rights as any other human.
These bills promote inaccurate ideas about why people get abortions later in pregnancy. The majority of abortions performed later in pregnancy are medically necessary to save the life of the pregnant person or necessary because of a fatal fetal abnormality; they’re not elective.
This legislation could take away a pregnant person’s power to decide what medical interventions they want to receive during an already-emotional time, possibly forcing physicians to prolong an infant’s life for a short period of time before it dies. In certain cases, this could take away parents’ opportunities to hold their infants.
Anti-choice advocates and lawmakers have attempted to pass “born alive” bills on the state and federal levels for years. Most recently, a “born alive” ballot initiative failed in Montana during the midterm elections in November. If Wagner’s bill becomes law, it would be more restrictive than other anti-choice bills on the books in 32 states, according to the Family Research Council, an anti-abortion group that supports the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
Democrats and pro-choice advocates argued that Americans had already rejected extreme abortion policies at the ballot box in November.
“If there was any overriding issue of clarity in the last election, it’s that Americans feel strongly that they should have the freedom to make their own health care decisions – not politicians. Apparently, House Republicans weren’t listening,” added Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus.
“These bills make it plain: House Republicans are patently rejecting the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans who voted to support legal abortion in November,” added NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju.