Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act Revisited: President Donald Trump to Sign Executive Order

A REGISTER EXPLAINER of the long road to get medical care to all babies born alive now leading to a Born-Alive Executive Order.

President Trump speaks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on September 24, 2020.
President Trump speaks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on September 24, 2020. (photo: EWTN News Nightly / EWTN)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday his intent to sign an executive order on protection of all babies born alive, echoing arguments in favor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act — a bill that has yet to be passed by Congress. 

In a recorded message for the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday, Trump said he will “always defend the sacred right to life.” 

“Today I am announcing that I will be signing the Born Alive Executive Order to ensure that all precious babies born alive, no matter their circumstances, receive the medical care that they deserve,” Trump said. “This is our sacrosanct moral duty.”

Jennie Bradley Lichter, a deputy assistant to the president who assisted in writing the order, told EWTN News Nightly in a Sept. 23 interview that the Born-Alive Executive Order will ensure that hospitals who receive federal funding “have an obligation to enforce certain federal laws that guarantee medical screening and appropriate treatment to every patient including babies. You would think that this would be obvious but unfortunately some hospitals don’t carry out that obligation.”

The order, Licther said,  also will “make sure every parent and every hospital staffer knows how to file a complaint if they think they are seeing a violation” of laws protecting the care of these patients.

Further, said Lichter, the order will commit to seeking “every opportunity to increase funding for neonatal research that would increase survival rates for babies born in various types of medical distress and training for medical professionals on how to treat babies born in these circumstances.”

A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately return the Register’s request for comment on when the president intends to sign this order or when its text will be available.


History of Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

Although the text of the executive order was not immediately available, it likely will mirror the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill that would require newborns who survive botched abortion procedures receive the appropriate medical care for their gestational age. In a recent letter to pro-life leaders, Trump pledged to sign the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act into law if he is elected to a second term. 

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in 2015, and re-introduced in 2017, and then again in 2019. The bill has been blocked thus far in the Senate, as has a companion House version in that chamber.

Proponents of the bill argue that current federal law does not adequately protect an infant who survives an abortion attempt. Some states — such as New York — have also reduced protections for such infants. 

In a statement provided to the Register, Sasse said, “This is really simple: every baby deserves a fighting chance.”

“Whether she’s born in a state-of-the-art NICU or an abortion clinic in a strip mall, these babies deserve medical care and dignity,” Sasse said. “Today’s executive order is a step in the right direction, and it’s time for Congress to change the law to make sure that every baby is protected.”

Sasse said he hopes Congress follows news of the executive order by passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. 

Nine states have introduced versions of the Born-Alive measure, and it most recently passed the Texas House of Representatives and the North Carolina Legislature; however, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the North Carolina bill on April 18, 2019.

In 2002 Congress passed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which mandates full legal rights for infants “born alive at any stage of development.” The law recognizes that an infant born alive from a failed abortion is a legal person, but does not mandate the provision of appropriate medical care. 

Lauren Fine, a spokeswoman for Steve Scalise, R-La., who as Minority Whip in 2019 sought to keep the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act alive in the House through a “discharge petition,” told the Register in an April 2019 article:

“This legislation builds upon the 2002 law by making clear that, in the case of an attempted abortion that results in a child born alive, the abortionist must exercise: ‘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; and ensure that the child born alive is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.’”

Democratic leadership has prevented House Republicans from bringing the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act to a vote. A “discharge petition” in support of bringing the act to the House floor for a vote has 205 signatures. The petition needs 218 member signatures to force consideration of the bill. While most bills do not advance out of committees to the House floor, a successful discharge petition would force consideration of the measure by the entire body.

In the Senate, the bill has failed to overcome a filibuster.

It remains to be seen the degree to which an executive order can accomplish what the Born-Alive bill intends, as the text has, at time of publication, not yet been released. 

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, told EWTN News Nightly on Sept. 23 that she was “delighted and surprised” by Trump’s announcement. 

“Most Americans agree a baby that survives a botched abortion deserves health protections of an American citizen, and that’s essentially what’s this executive order is asking for,” she said.