The West Virginia Senate on Feb. 10 approved a bill that would penalize physicians who don’t provide “reasonable” medical care to a baby born after an abortion attempt.
Senators unanimously approved the bill following testimony from state Sen. Mike Romano (D-W.Va.), who said lawmakers have wasted time angling for political points on a bill that has no impact, instead of working on the state’s more serious problems, according to The Associated Press.
“A child born alive who would somehow be killed, that would be murder. It would clearly be murder, there’s nobody doing that and if they do do it, they’re in jail,” said Romano, adding that the bill “isn’t going to change anything.”
House Bill 4007, also known as the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, states that if a physician performs or attempts to perform an abortion that results in a child born alive, they must “exercise the same degree of reasonable medical judgment to preserve the life and health of the child” as they would “to any other child born alive at the same gestational age; and ensure that the child born alive is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.”
According to the measure, “born alive” means the “complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.”
Any physician or other licensed medical professionals who fails to do so will be subjected to “discipline from the applicable licensure board for that conduct, including, but not limited to, loss of professional license to practice,” the bill reads.
The House must now approve the amendments made to the measure before it goes to the office of Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, for his signature.
Justice said in a tweet on Feb. 11 that he will support the bill and will continue to “defend the right for life for every unborn child.”
“I will proudly sign this bill into law when it comes to my desk because every human life—born and unborn—is precious and a gift from God.”
According to AP, in a previous debate, some Republicans in the House of Delegates conceded that the bill is more about sending a political message than solving an ongoing problem, especially since existing laws already protect newborns and the state bars abortions after 20 weeks.
Fox News reported that at least 40 babies were born alive after botched abortions between 2016 and 2018, including 11 in Minnesota, 10 in Arizona and 19 in Florida. Michigan, Oklahoma, and Texas also have laws requiring data on infants born after botched abortions, but none of them have yet reported any cases or haven’t begun compiling the information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 143 cases between 2003 and 2014 of infants born after attempted abortions; however, it notes that the figure underestimates the total number of deaths involving induced termination.
However, research by the American Center for Law and Justice estimated a much higher figure of at least 362 between 2002 and 2010.