North Carolina ‘Born-Alive’ Abortion Bill Clears Senate

April 16, 2019 Updated: April 16, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C.—A bill requiring doctors and nurses to protect and care for children born alive during a failed late-term abortion cleared the North Carolina Senate on Monday, April 15, handing social conservatives a victory.

The Republican-drafted legislation specifies that health care practitioners should grant those children born alive the same protections as any other newborn patient. Those who don’t do so could face a felony and active prison time, along with potential $250,000 fines and other monetary damages. A mother can’t be prosecuted, but health care providers who fail to report any improper care to authorities could be charged.

“This has nothing to do with limiting abortion in any way,” said Republican Sen. Joyce Krawiec, the bill’s sponsor, in floor debate. “This bill changes nothing except how that born-alive infant is treated.”

A newborn baby’s feet. (Esudroff/Pixabay)

The measure now moves to the House for expected floor debate and a vote on the measure Tuesday. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has criticized the measure through a spokeswoman, raising expectations he would veto it if it reaches his desk.

Two Senate Democrats joined all Republicans voting 28-19 for the measure Monday night, suggesting a veto could be overridden in that chamber. But House Republicans may need seven Democrats to join them in voting for the legislation to fully withstand any veto. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers but lost veto-proof control in January after Democratic seat gains in November.

Anti-abortion groups have embraced the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” which they say would protect children born alive after botched late-term abortions and who otherwise would be left to die. The state’s murder statutes also would be expanded in the measure to apply to an “intentional, overt act” after a child is born alive.

The bill’s supporters have provided written testimony of adults who saw or survived botched abortions. It’s unclear, however, how often such situations occur.

The North Carolina Values Coalition said five states have reported at least 25 children were born alive during attempted abortions in 2017. North Carolina keeps no such statistics.

baby in ultrasound
A 3D ultrasound showing a baby inside the womb. (Fotopress/Getty Images)

North Carolina Republicans have passed abortion restrictions this decade, including one that extended the waiting period for the procedure to 72 hours. But a North Carolina law adjusted in 2015 to limit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy to only those during a medical emergency was struck down by a federal judge. He delayed enforcement of his decision so the state could appeal or rewrite that law.

Anti-abortion and abortion-rights filled seats on opposite sides of the Senate gallery on Monday. Two other Democratic women who spoke against the bill are running for statewide office next year. Sen. Erica Smith is running for U.S. Senate while Sen. Terry Van Duyn wants to be the next lieutenant governor.

Current Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican and the Senate’s presiding officer, endorsed the bill. He is preparing to run for governor in 2020, hoping to unseat Cooper.

By Gary D. Robertson

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