Anti-abortion “Born-Alive” bill misinforms, seeks to criminalize medical providers and their patients
The National Network of Abortion Funds requests that media outlets take note of a new bill, the deceptively titled HR 4712 – Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. HR 4712 was introduced December 21, 2017 and will be considered by the Rules Committee today at 5:00pm ET. It seeks criminalize abortion and punish physicians for providing a legal medical procedure. This bill would hinder the ability to provide abortions and result in severely limited access to abortion for people seeking to terminate their pregnancy. News around the introduction of this bill has so far been largely limited to anti-abortion news sites and conservative outlets. It’s time to address the damage this bill would cause at a national level.
A similar bill was introduced in 2015 under the same name, HR 3504. While it did go to the floor after being considered by the Judiciary and Rules Committee, and passed the House, it did not come up for a vote in the Senate and, therefore, was not passed into law. There are four main outcomes of the new bill that we’re concerned about:
- The real reason for any bill like this is to limit abortion access, despite abortion being legal.
- The misleading nature of the bill in addressing a problem that is virtually nonexistent in order to intentionally misinform and confuse people.
- It targets and demonizes medical providers.
- We know from experience that people who are criminalized for having abortions are subjected to bunk science in the courtroom, which can have a devastating effect on them.
The bill’s true intention is to create language that is part of law to set up more and more barriers to abortion.
The myths purveyed in the language of this bill are an old political tool that we are weary of seeing rear its head on repeat. We’re all too familiar with the gruesome, intentionally shocking images and messages purveyed by anti-abortion extremists. We are even more disappointed when politicians follow the lead of these militant, often violent, deceitful extremists in a way that would impact U.S. law and culture.
Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, says:
“Yet again, anti-abortion politicians are turning to outright lies in their merciless quest to make abortion illegal and inaccessible. Without care for consequence or for the validity of the messages bills like this provide, this bill is one of the lowest and basest attempts we’ve seen in recent years to hurt people who have abortions. Everyone is watching, and those of us who’ve had abortions are saying ‘No. Not on our watch.’”
This bill points towards a fake problem. These politicians are trying to scam us.
The main goal of this bill is to peddle fear-mongering language and outright lies. Abortion is extremely safe, with standards of care that practicing medical providers implement for their patients. If there’s a complication with a later abortion and the abortion is incomplete, doctors are already medically required to give the fetus lifesaving care. This rarely happens.
But anti-abortion politicians want to make this a law so that they can message about how awful later abortion is and pair it with their “abortion survivors” messaging. They’re using it as a scare tactic to bring up Kermit Gosnell, proven to be an outlier, who had been been convicted of first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
We’re tired of bunk science, excessive distortion of history and medical practice, and the us of trickery to pass unconstitutional, trite bills. This bill is no exception and needs to have the light of reality shined on its pages.
The bill targets providers for a legal medical procedure. That’s wrong.
This bill states, “An individual who violates the provisions of this bill is subject to a criminal fine, up to five years in prison, or both.” The beginning of the bill makes clear that the only individuals subject to this are physicians. When providers are scared of being sent to prison, it reduces the accessibility of later abortion — a procedure that is often non-elective and lifesaving to the pregnant person.
The bill does nothing but sow distrust towards abortion providers and medical professionals who already follow medical directives. By saying “A woman who undergoes an abortion or attempted abortion may file a civil action for damages against an individual who violates this bill,” the bill negates the firm decision a person has made when seeking an abortion and imagines criminality that doesn’t exist between a doctor and patient in the abortion process.
This bill is yet another example of sloppy bill-writing with no regard for legal procedure or the relationship between doctor and patient.
It’s people who have abortions, in addition to providers, who end up prosecuted.
When people are prosecuted for the “killing of newborns” under laws like the earlier “Born-Alive” Infants Protection Act of 2002 and similar state laws, attorneys general report that they are people who have abortions, not physicians, such as four cases in Michigan in which a woman was prosecuted in each case.
By rejecting both medical science and compassion for people who needed medical care, we see cases like the long and drawn out feticide case aimed at Purvi Patel, who was accused of murdering a “born-alive” fetus and prosecuted based on a disproven “lung float test” which the Indiana Court of Appeals failed to discredit even in the decision to free Patel after months in prison.
It was also revealed recently in a well-researched article by Amy Littlefield in Rewire that the doctor who called law enforcement on Purvi Patel when she sought medical assistance from St. Joseph Hospital (which does not provide abortions) belonged to an anti-choice medical association. When people have a miscarriage or stillbirth and don’t report it, they can be accused of self-inducing their abortion and be subject to laws in the vein of the bill. Overall, bills like this criminalize all pregnancy outcomes.
Shelly Dodson, Director of All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center in Bloomington, Indiana, says:
“The research is clear. If pregnant people fear criminal consequences, they don’t go to the doctor. This bill sets a dangerous precedent not to trust the medical community. Choosing to criminalize people around pregnancy decisions and pregnancy outcomes is a grave injustice, which is just as true for anti-abortion bills like HR 4712 as it was for Purvi Patel.”
At the National Network of Abortion Funds we know that people of color tend to bear the brunt of barriers and laws that criminalize both abortion and the people who have them. Yamani Hernandez, executive director, explains:
“People of color are bearing the brunt of unscientific laws and misplaced moral outrage against abortion, putting any pregnant person at risk of prosecution and incarceration. It needs to stop.”
Perhaps we haven’t heard about this bill in progressive media outlets because it’s stacked on top of so many other injustices that it’s difficult to choose what to cover next. As the bill moves through the rules committee today at 5:00pm ET, which determines under what rule the bill can be considered to be on the floor, it needs media attention in order for the public to speak out against the bill. We know from experience that the consequences of the bill would be dire, and for those of us who have abortions, and care about people who have abortions, it is impossible to ignore.