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U.S. House passes two pro-life measures facing steep odds in the Senate

By Kate Scanlon

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — The U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 11 passed two pro-life measures, however neither has a clear path through the U.S. Senate to become law.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act passed first in a 220-210 vote, with one member, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, voting present, and with Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, joining Republicans to support the bill. According to proponents, the bill would require any infant that survives an abortion procedure to receive appropriate medical care for their gestational age.

A second measure, a resolution condemning violence against “pro-life facilities, groups and even churches,” also passed in a 222-209 vote. This resolution condemned the violence that erupted following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overturned prior precedents that found a constitutional right to abortion.

Three Democrats, Rep. Gonzalez, as well as Reps. Chrissy Houlaha of Pennsylvania and Marie Perez of Washington state, joined the resolution.

Neither measure is likely to be considered by the Senate, which remains under Democratic control.

The measures come in the first week of legislative business for the new Republican majority in the House after spending their first week in power electing a House speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

The votes took place as some Republican leaders, including former President Donald Trump, have blamed the issue of abortion as being responsible for the GOP’s lackluster performance in November’s midterm elections.

However, the House saw Republicans publicly restate their commitment to advancing pro-life policies.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., the House Republican Conference vice chairman who introduced the resolution condemning the violence against pro-life facilities, said in a statement Congress needed to “make the position of Congress crystal clear: violence, property damage, threats and intimidation tactics must be condemned, and these clear violations of federal and state laws must be prosecuted.”

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said in remarks on the House floor that “pregnancy care centers across the country have suffered a surge of violent attacks, firebombing and vandalism by pro-abortion activists in a coordinated effort to intimidate frontline volunteers and licensed medical professionals providing critical support to mothers in need and their unborn baby boys and girls.”

“Now more than ever, we — and that includes the Biden administration — need to ensure the safety and security of the estimated 3,000 pregnancy care centers that provide life-affirming alternatives to abortion — offering critical, quality care for pregnant women facing challenging circumstances and helping to save so many unborn, innocent lives,” Smith said.

Some lawmakers supportive of legal abortion, including Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., however, argued Republicans should condemn violence against abortion clinics.

“Republicans have put forth a measure that condemns attacks on anti-choice facilities but says nothing about the growing violence against women’s health clinics,” DeGette wrote on Twitter. “By ignoring these attacks, Republicans are sending a dangerous message that will embolden the extremists behind them.”

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., who sponsored the reintroduction of the Born-Alive bill, said in a statement the legislation would “provide commonsense protections for innocent children and their mothers and will ensure all babies receive the essential care they need at an incredibly vulnerable moment.”

“All children should have the right to receive life-saving care, especially those who survive an abortion,” she said.

However, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the House Progressive Caucus, stated the bill is redundant.

“This bill is absurd for so many reasons, number one, it is obviously ALREADY illegal to kill a baby,” she posted to Twitter, adding: “The only new action this bill takes is to threaten jail time for health care workers.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, praised the House for passing the Born-Alive bill.

“We commend the House of Representatives for passing legislation to protect innocent children from infanticide, and urge the Senate to follow suit,” Bishop Burbidge said in a statement. “Babies who are born alive during the process of an abortion deserve compassionate care and medical attention — just the same as any other newborn baby.”

Infants who survive botched abortions are rare, but Melissa Ohden, founder and CEO of the Abortion Survivors Network, said in a statement that tens of thousands of abortion survivors like her do exist.

“We applaud Congresswoman Wagner’s leadership in ensuring infants like me, and countless others, are guaranteed medical care and legal protections when abortions fail and life wins,” she said.

Other leading pro-life organizations praised the House for passing these measures.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said in a statement her organization “is grateful to House Republicans for prioritizing commonsense and compassionate pro-life bills in the new Congress.”

“We urge all legislators to vote in favor of these measures which align with the values of the vast majority of Americans,” she said.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said in a statement, that the GOP leadership recognized the federal government’s “crucial role in protecting our most vulnerable children and their mothers in the Dobbs era,” and both initiatives “affirm the sanctity of life.”

“Our government’s most sacred duty is to safeguard the lives of all Americans,” she said.

Kate Scanlon is OSV News’ Washington-based national reporter.

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