Bill to protect babies’ rights after abortion

The Wisconsin State Senate Judiciary, Corrections and Privacy Committee voted 4-1 Thursday to recommend a floor vote for the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

The bill’s purpose is to “clarify that all babies born alive have legal rights irrespective of whether they were born after an abortion or naturally,” said Mary Klaver, legislative legal counsel for Wisconsin Right to Life, a non-profit organization.

A federal law already exists protecting infants born alive after abortion, and according to Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), this bill is modeled after it. However, the bill is coming under fire in Wisconsin.

“This bill is trying to address a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Lisa Boyce, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood. “There is no such thing as an infant born alive after abortion.”

According to Klaver, a baby survives an abortion if labor is induced and nothing is introduced to “kill” the fetus. It is illegal in Wisconsin for abortion clinics to perform abortions if the fetus can survive outside of the mother’s body, Boyce said. Therefore, infants can survive abortions in hospitals, not in abortion clinics.

In specific instances at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., doctors have let infants die, Klaver said. She said a registered nurse from Christ Hospital testified before the committee that doctors would treat these infants as medical waste, in one case putting an infant on a shelf in a storage room for over an hour before it died.

Wisconsin Right to Life and Boyce agree once an infant is outside of its mother, it is alive and deserves the same rights as anyone else. Both said what happened at Christ Hospital was “infanticide.” Yet, they still disagree on this bill.

“Physicians are bound by law to take care of babies,” Boyce said. “There are already laws in place that need to be enforced.”

Boyce said this bill is unnecessary and is simply an attempt by anti-abortion advocates to make abortion providers look bad. She called it a “public relations tactic” to make the public think babies are being born alive at Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics and then killed.

Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wiscosin Right to Life, feels a solid law defining a child’s rights in this situation needs to be passed. She said this may also encourage people who know of situations like the one in Illinois to come forward.

Under current Wisconsin law, an infant is born alive if it is not determined to be dead. Determination of death is defined in a statute as “an individual who has sustained either irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions or irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead. A determination of death shall be made in accordance with accepted medical standards.”

“The current law gives enough protection,” said Sen. Gary George (D-Milwaukee), the lone committee member who voted against recommending the bill for a floor vote.

The bill’s author is also a point of contention among the Democratic party of Wisconsin. While Lazich introduced the bill into the Senate, the party claims Wisconsin Right to Life wrote it.

“I think this is yet another attempt to criminalize doctors and a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body,” said Democratic party spokesman Seth Boffeli.

Klaver said she assisted in writing the bill, and that special interest groups help write legislation all the time. She said the Democrats are “name calling” because they do not actually oppose the intent of the bill.

“If that’s the best they can do, saying you didn’t even write it yourself, that’s pathetic,” Klaver said.

“All bills are drafted with the input of a lot of interested parties,” Lazich said. “We bring many, many players to the table on some bills.”

From here the bill moves into the Senate Rules Committee, which will vote on when and if it should be moved to the floor for a full vote. The Senate floor re-convenes on Sept. 23.