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House Republicans pass first abortion bill of new Congress

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House Republicans on Wednesday passed a bill that would required a infant born during of following an abortion to received medical care like any other infant. File Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
House Republicans on Wednesday passed a bill that would required a infant born during of following an abortion to received medical care like any other infant. File Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The Republican-led House of Representatives has passed its first major abortion bill of the 118th Congress, requiring infants born alive during or following an attempted abortion to receive medical attention.

The bill titled the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act passed the House on Wednesday in a 220-210-1 vote along party lines. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas was the only Democrat to jump the aisle and vote in favor of the bill with his Republican counterparts.

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Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, was the sole legislator to vote present.

"The House has finally taken action to ensure that every single baby born in the United States receives lifesaving medical care at their most vulnerable moment," Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., the bill's sponsor, said in a statement following the vote.

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"We must remember today that children are not the only victims of born-alive abortions," she said. "Women, fathers and whole families all suffer deeply from the loss of their child."

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The Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to not take up the measure, which requires healthcare workers to provide care to an infant born during or after an attempted abortion as they would to any other infant.

It also requires healthcare workers and hospital employees to report violations to law enforcement, and penalize the "intentional killing of a born-alive child" through fines and up to five years' imprisonment.

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In the 12 years between 2003 and 2014, there were only 143 infant deaths where the cause was listed as a termination of pregnancy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 97 deaths having involved a maternal complication or one of more congenital anomalies.

Democrats from the floor on Wednesday argued the bill was dangerous and unnecessary as killing a child was already illegal.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the bill would force medical providers to act against their best medical judgement and make decisions out of fear of retaliation, and that the legislation is part of a greater Republican effort to try and ban the medical practice nationwide.

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"The bill's implications that providers who perform abortions routinely act in a callous or criminal manner that would result in an infant's death or that a provider performs an abortion somehow can not be trusted to take adequate measures to save a living baby's life is insulting and untrue," he said.

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Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., lambasted the bill for being "extremist, dangerous and unnecessary."

"Many of my Republican colleagues talk about keeping big government out of people's lives, but when it comes to one of the hardest, most intimate decisions that should be made between patients and their healthcare providers, these same colleagues think the government knowns better," she said.

"Republicans in Congress and conservative extremists on the Supreme Court are waging a war on reproductive healthcare, a war on bodily autonomy and a war on the medical community and the doctor-patient relationship."

Meanwhile, Republicans framed the bill as humane and lifesaving.

"What should be undisputed is the care of a child who is born alive after -- after -- an attempted abortion," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said. "Unfortunately, as evidenced by comments from prominent Democrats, not everyone believes that a child born alive should be protected."

House majority leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana similarly said the bill is about "human dignity" and "commonsense."

"The idea, madame speaker, that if a baby is born alive outside the womb, that that baby in America could be killed and called abortion not murder defies logic," he said. "It defies humanity."

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The passing of the bill comes amid a Republican push to restrict the medical practice nationwide and after the Supreme Court last June overturned the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that provided federal protections for the right to abortion.

Republicans gained control of the House in November's elections, and had said taking up the born alive legislation would be among its first orders of business.

NARAL Pro-Choice America condemned the Republican's passing of the bill on Wednesday.

"Once against Democrats are fighting for our reproductive freedom and the eight in 10 Americans who support the legal right to abortion, while Republicans are doubling down on their anti-choice extremist values," NARAL Pro-Choice American President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement. "Democrats' first action was putting forth the Women's Health Protection Act to restore and expand access to abortion, while Republicans are forcing votes on bills that make it harder for American to access the care they need.

"The contrast between the two parties has never been clearer."

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