In recent years — and this year is no exception — we have seen legislation in Congress and in statehouses dealing with life issues, particularly those at the beginning and end of life. There is a battle over the value of human life and to what extent it should be protected.
Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and protection for babies born alive following an abortion are two issues that have garnered attention at the national and state levels. State legislatures around the country have seen both successes and defeats. The scoreboard shows that more people are rejecting assisted suicide than embracing it. Pro-life advocates should be encouraged by the results of their efforts to combat these extreme laws.
Prior to this spring and summer, physician-assisted suicide (PAS) was legal in seven states: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
Only three states enacted bills to legalize or expand assisted suicide in 2019. New Jersey became the eighth state to legalize PAS. A judge placed a temporary restraining order on the law. A trial date is set for October 23.
In mid-June, Maine governor Janet Mills signed a bill legalizing assisted suicide, bringing the total to nine states. Oregon expanded assisted suicide in SB 579. After passage in the Senate and the House, the bill was signed by Governor Kate Brown.
There was good news! Fourteen states defeated attempts to legalize assisted suicide in 2019. These states were Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Utah.
Most of these bills died in committee with no action taken. Some died due to insufficient votes to pass. Some passed either the House or the Senate and failed to pass in the other chamber. Some died after public hearings were held.
States with active efforts and bills to prohibit or limit assisted suicide in 2019 include Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, New York, and Maine. Arkansas increased the penalties for assisting in a suicide. In Oklahoma, the Death Certificate Accuracy Act was signed into law. The New Jersey bill would repeal its new assisted suicide law. In New York, a law is pending that prohibits insurance coverage for assisted suicide. In Maine, signatures are being collected for a People’s Veto of the state’s new law to be on the June 2020 ballot.
Four other states (Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Minnesota) have active bills to legalize or expand assisted suicide in 2019 that will carry over to 2020.
Montana defeated a bill to prohibit assisted suicide in 2019.
Born Alive Infant Protection Act
On January 22, 2019, the 46th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law that eliminated all limits on third-trimester abortions, thereby legalizing abortion up to birth. Currently, eight states now allow abortion up to birth including Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Vermont, along with Washington, D.C., as confirmed by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research group.
Prior to Cuomo’s signing of the New York bill, 29 states had some form of born-alive protection. However, New York’s Reproductive Health Act effectively repealed born-alive protections. This is why it is imperative that laws are passed that add enforcement tools to prosecute physicians who deny life-saving medical care to infants born alive.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that, from 2003 to 2014, at least 143 infants died after being born during an abortion. The agency acknowledges this may only be the tip of the iceberg. There is no federal reporting requirement so statistics are incomplete, inadequate and several years out of date. Only six states require reporting incidents of babies born alive.
This year, Texas and Arkansas enacted stronger laws protecting these babies. However, in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Montana, radical pro-abortion governors vetoed born-alive legislation.
In mid-September, pro-life leaders in the U.S. House held a hearing on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, aimed at protecting babies who survive abortions. The bill would require health care workers to treat a baby born alive during an abortion with “the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”
The protective legislation is supported by 77 percent of Americans (McLaughlin & Associates, 2019). However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has blocked a House vote on this legislation 80 times so far. (The bill had failed to pass the U.S. Senate in February by a vote of 53-44.)
Current law does not protect infants who survive an abortion procedure. This is not a theoretical problem. Public record in the United States proves that babies are born alive following attempted abortions. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act provides desperately needed defense for the most vulnerable members of society.