Days after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban into law, the state legislature took things one step further, passing a bill Tuesday that would criminalize doctors for failing to treat an infant “born alive” after an abortion or an attempted abortion.
Under the controversial bill, which now moves to the state Senate, doctors would face jail time of 20 years for failing to “exercise reasonable care to preserve the life of a child born alive after an abortion or attempted abortion.” The measure is not rooted in scientific evidence or medicine, nor does it attempt to solve a common problem. Indeed, babies born before 23 weeks of pregnancy rarely survive, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Under current Alabama law, abortion is banned at or after 22 weeks of pregnancy.
The issue of infants being “born alive” and then supposedly killed, otherwise known as “infanticide,” is largely a manufactured controversy started by anti-choice conservatives who want to limit reproductive freedom. As Alabama Democrats pointed out on Tuesday, the state has no record of any such instances. Furthermore, the majority of abortions nationwide are performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
There are very rare cases in which the life of a fetus and the pregnant person are both at risk, with the only solution being to induce labor, even if it means that the baby will not survive. Under the Alabama bill, doctors would be forced to try to save the infant’s life or face punishment.
But in such cases, there already is a federal law on the books — the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, passed by Congress in 2002 — which grants infants full legal rights, regardless of when they are born. The law does not include punishments for doctors.
Despite these realities, numerous states have recently passed “born-alive” measures, including Texas, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. The U.S. Senate in February also voted on a “born-alive” bill, operating under the false assumption that babies are routinely born alive after abortions. Shortly after the Senate bill failed, President Donald Trump weighed in on the matter, taking to Twitter to spread a dangerous lie:
“Senate Democrats just voted against legislation to prevent the killing of newborn infant children,” he tweeted. “The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth…”
Senate Democrats just voted against legislation to prevent the killing of newborn infant children. The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 26, 2019
Trump’s comments and the overall Republican narrative about “infanticide” threaten to incite violence against doctors and other providers, who routinely face dangerous situations simply for doing their jobs. In 2017 alone, the National Abortion Federation identified more than 800 trespassing incidents, the highest number of invasions of clinics since 1993, and more than 78,000 incidents of picketing.
Alabama and a slew of other states recently came under fire for passing or signing into law a number of extreme abortion bans — drawing protests from thousands across the country Tuesday. Alabama’s near-total abortion ban, which is expected to go into effect in six months, would make it a felony to terminate a pregnancy at any point and punish providers with up to 99 years in prison. The law does not include exceptions for rape or incest, but only for the health of the pregnant person.