President Trump recently signed an “Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children.” The Sept. 25 order directs Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to implement “the policy of the United States to recognize the human dignity and inherent worth of every newborn or other infant child, regardless of prematurity or disability, and to ensure for each child due protection under the law.” The policy is not new, but the ramifications of its enforcement are far-reaching.
In 1999, Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, became the epicenter of a scandal that rocked the nation. The hospital, operated jointly by the United Church of Christ and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was placed under formal investigation by the Illinois Department of Health after nurse Jill Stanek testified before Congress that babies who survived abortions there were left to die unattended in a “utility room.”
As the scandal grew to implicate other hospitals, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA) was passed by voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush on August 5, 2002.
BAIPA simply says that “In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress [etc.], the words ‘person’, ‘human being’, ‘child’, and ‘individual’, shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.” President Trump’s executive order applies this law to two specific acts of Congress.
Applying Existing Law to All Human Beings
For 34 years, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) has required health care facilities to offer the full range of life-saving care they have available to every individual regardless of circumstances. The executive order instructs the HHS to make sure that these facilities apply this 1986 law to “every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.”
Emergency medical treatment should apply this same standard of care to children born alive regardless of how premature, or whether the birth was spontaneous or induced. In the same way, babies with disabilities should receive equal treatment. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against disabled people “in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The executive order specifies that children born with disabilities like spina bifida and trisomy — even if premature — are equally protected under the Act.
These directives became necessary, according to the order, because “some hospitals refuse the required medical screening examination and stabilizing treatment or otherwise do not provide potentially life-saving medical treatment to extremely premature or disabled infants, even when parents plead for such treatment.” This is not a hypothetical statement.
Azar reported that “in May 2020, HHS determined that an Ohio hospital had failed in 2017 to ensure medical screening examinations required by EMTALA were performed for twins born prematurely (at 22 weeks gestation) who were not sent to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and died within several hours after delivery.”
Please Don’t Let My Baby Die Without Medical Care
Emery, the first-born, lived unattended for 45 minutes after he was born. A video on Created Equal’s Facebook page shows his mother, Amanda Finnefrock, crying and pleading with the hospital staff to give emergency care to her dying son.
Elliot, the second-born and larger twin, survived for two and a half hours, breathing on his own. Despite Amanda’s pleading, the hospital did nothing. After he died, she can be heard crying, “Mommy tried. Mommy tried.” The HHS Office of Civil Rights is investigating this incident for civil rights violations.
In addition to this and other specific violations, the order also found that: “Hospitals might refuse to provide treatment to extremely premature infants — born alive before 24 weeks of gestation — because they believe these infants may not survive, may have to live with long-term disabilities, or may have a quality-of-life deemed to be inadequate.”
These excuses for the denial of care are regularly used by pro-infanticide groups like NARAL. In fact, only two days before President Trump signed the order, NARAL issued a statement complaining that it would “interfere with family decisions” for an “infant who tragically won’t survive long.”
Prejudicial and preemptive determinations about a person’s future prospects should not substitute for on-the-scene evaluations from trained emergency medical technicians. They only create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, “the child won’t survive long” if you deprive her of the very means of care that gives the possibility of a long and fruitful life.
Many Children Survive Abortion Attempts
It is uncontested that many children have been born alive following an abortion. As of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control documented 179 such cases. Even this number is a gross undercount, coming from only eight states. Of these children, 58.1 percent survived for more than an hour without any medical intervention. One in 30 suffered for more than a day before dying alone.
The same CDC report listed the terminology on these death certificates. Terms like “Cytotec termination,” “Induced loss of pregnancy,” “Misoprostol induced abortion,” and “Prostaglandin termination” litter the list. Such terms make clear that born-alive children are no accident. Rather, synthetic hormones are being administered to induce labor while the child is still perfectly healthy but at an extremely premature state of development.
The results of this practice were confirmed in an open hearing at Wyoming’s state legislature. There Dr. Renee Hinkle, vice president of Wyoming’s Board of Medicine, explained, “We do, sometimes, induce labor on a patient whose baby is not…ah… whose baby would be non-viable outside the uterus.” It’s not that the baby is already dead, but that it “would be non-viable” once delivered.
Web sites like Misoprostol.org provide “Dosage Guidelines,” well into the third trimester of pregnancy, that knowingly deliver a living, premature baby. This dark side of the abortion industry has been enabled, in part, because the 2002 BAIPA law did not include any criminal penalties. For that reason, 35 states have worked with various degrees of success to close the loophole.
Democrats Blocking Care for Abortion Survivors
On the federal level, H.R. 962 Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was introduced with 193 cosponsors in February 2019. Since then, it has been buried in a sub-committee. In an effort to get it to the floor, 205 Republicans have petitioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to bring it up for a vote. They have brought the “discharge petition” on 80 separate occasions, and on 80 occasions Democrats blocked the bill from receiving a vote. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate. S.311 has 50 cosponsors but has failed two cloture votes.
Unlike S.311 and H.R. 962, the executive order does not rely on criminal penalties, but on monetary incentives. By instructing HHS to follow the law and withhold federal funding from institutions that do not comply with BAIPA, it gives a greater incentive for health-care institutions to offer medically appropriate care to premature babies, including those with birth defects and genetic anomalies.
The executive order also prioritizes discretionary grant funding, available from the National Institutes of Health, to direct “research dollars for programs and activities conducting research to develop treatments that may improve survival — especially survival without impairment—of infants born alive, including premature infants or infants with disabilities, who have an emergency medical condition in need of stabilizing treatment.“ These grants are to be made available both to research programs and to training hospitals.
The order protecting vulnerable newborns is little more than 900 words long, and it makes no policies or regulations not already contained in federal law. Nevertheless, it could have a major impact on the lives and well-being of countless tiny people. It powerfully applies America’s principle that “Every infant born alive, no matter the circumstances of his or her birth, has the same dignity and the same rights as every other individual and is entitled to the same protections under Federal law.”