Republicans started a long-shot drive Tuesday to force a House vote on a measure that could imprison doctors for five years if they don’t try saving the life of infants born during attempted abortions.
Their effort seems likely to fail in the Democratic-controlled House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has refused to allow a vote on the bill. But Republicans hope it will be politically damaging for Democrats from moderate districts who oppose the GOP move, and see it as a way to energize conservative anti-abortion voters.
“How is it legal in America to kill a baby after it’s been born alive outside the womb?” said No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise, R-La., who’s pushing the effort along with Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo.
“That’s not an accurate statement,” Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California at San Francisco, said of Scalise’s remark. “Any infant born alive during an abortion or otherwise needs to be treated as any live human.”
Opponents say such births are extremely rare, generally occurring when doctors determine that a child won’t survive and parents opt to spend time with it before death.
Republicans have been pushing the issue since it arose earlier this year in Virginia and New York.
Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, spoke favorably in January about state legislation to ease restrictions on late-term abortions. He said “a discussion would ensue” between doctors and the family over next steps if an infant is born who is badly deformed or incapable of living.
President Donald Trump has criticized a new abortion law in New York that permits abortions of a viable fetus after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the mother’s life is in danger — codifying conditions specified by U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
House Republicans are utilizing a seldom used procedure that forces a vote on a measure once 218 lawmakers, a majority, sign a petition. Aides say all 197 Republicans are expected to sign. A few Democrats will probably join, but not the 21 Democrats that Republicans will need to succeed.
Senate Democrats blocked a GOP effort in February to force debate on a similar bill.