Oregon Needs a Law to Protect Abortion Survivors

Babies who survive abortion attempts are at risk in Oregon.

Federal law doesn’t provide adequate safeguards for these children, and Oregon has no law explicitly protecting abortion survivors. 

This complex issue is often ignored or misunderstood. Here are the facts.

Are babies actually born alive during abortions?

Some people argue that babies aren’t really born alive during abortions and that pro-life advocates are making it up.

But as Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Melanie Israel wrote, “This problem is not hypothetical: It is a matter of public record, both in the United States and abroad, that babies are born alive following attempted abortions.”

The CDC estimates that, between 2003 and 2014, more than 140 babies were born alive but did not ultimately survive after failed induced abortions — and that number is very likely undercounted. Some organizations estimate that number is far higher. The Abortion Survivors Network suggests that an average of 1,734 babies are born alive following abortion attempts each year.

Credible witnesses affirm that infants have indeed been born alive and neglected after surviving abortion attempts, the Charlotte Lozier Institute points out.

In testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 2013, former registered nurse Jill Stanek said babies were being left to die following abortion attempts at her Illinois hospital. She recalled discovering a late-term baby boy with Down syndrome who had survived a failed abortion but died in her arms 45 minutes later. Stanek said the experience left her “traumatized” and “changed forever.” 

In 2015, abortion survivor Melissa Ohden (who survived a failed saline abortion) told federal lawmakers about meeting a nurse who helped deliver a baby boy born alive after a failed abortion in 1976 but then obeyed orders to place him “in the utility closet in a bucket of formaldehyde to be picked up later as medical waste after he died there, alone.”

Isn’t it already illegal to kill babies outside the womb?

Other critics of legislation to protect born-alive infants say such bills are unnecessary because it’s already illegal to kill born babies. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

It’s true that the 2002 federal Born-Alive Protection Act defines infants who survive abortion as “persons” — but the law doesn’t specify standards of care. And while infanticide is certainly illegal, the lack of clearly defined protections for babies born alive during abortions makes them vulnerable to medical neglect.

Oregon Right to Life has put forward HB 4108: Born Alive Infants Protection Act in the 2024 legislative session, urging legislators to ensure that babies who survive abortion in Oregon are treated the same as a baby born prematurely at a similar gestational age.

As Melanie Israel wrote for the Heritage Foundation, legislation outlining protections for abortion survivors “simply ensures that a living newborn infant, regardless of the circumstances of the child’s birth or whether he/she was ‘wanted’ or not, receives proper medical care.”

What, specifically, would protections for abortion survivors look like?

Specifically, HB 4108: Born Alive Infants Protection Act would:

  • Require health care practitioners to exercise the proper degree of care to preserve the health and life of a child born alive after an abortion or an attempted abortion.
  • Require health care practitioners to ensure that the infant is transported to a hospital.
  • Allow a person who obtained an abortion or attempted to obtain an abortion to file a civil action against a health care practitioner or employee for failing to exercise proper standard of care.
  • Allow the court to keep the identity and personal identifying information of the woman who obtained the abortion from being disclosed.

HB 4108 would NOT:

  • Permit a civil lawsuit to be brought against the woman who obtained an abortion.

Protecting abortion survivors is just common sense. The vast majority of people believe that babies born alive during abortion procedures should receive appropriate medical care. 

Make sure to support your pro-life legislators who are working hard to establish these critical safeguards in Oregon and stay informed about the issue. Visit ortl.org/action to stay on top of pro-life Oregon legislation and easily connect with lawmakers.


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