- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

President Bush signed into law yesterday legislation ensuring that every infant born alive is considered a person under federal law, a measure designed to prevent mistreatment of infants who survive abortions or are too underdeveloped to live long-term.

"The Born Alive Infants Protection Act establishes a principle in American law and in American conscience," said Mr. Bush, who held a signing ceremony yesterday at a Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel.

"There is no right to destroy a child who has been born alive. A child who is born has intrinsic worth and must have the full protection of our laws."

Proponents of the newly signed law say it is necessary because there has been an erosion of the legal rights of born-alive infants.

"Some newborn infants, especially those who are born alive during abortions, have been treated as nonpersons," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.

"This bill says that every infant born alive, even during an abortion and even if premature or handicapped, is a full legal person under federal law."

Supporters also say it is necessary to prevent so-called "live-birth" abortions, where the doctor induces premature labor and, if the baby is alive after birth, it is allowed to die.

Jill Stanek, a nurse who worked at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., testified before Congress that doctors there have performed the procedure and left infants alone to die in a utility closet, without even basic care. Miss Stanek attended yesterday's signing ceremony.

Democratic critics have said the bill, which passed the House in March and the Senate in late July, is unnecessary because current law already protects infants born alive.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and ranking member of the House Judiciary Constitution subcommittee, has called consideration of the bill a "show for anti-abortion extremists."

Under the law, the legal definition of "person," "human being," "child" and "individual" includes any human who is completely outside the mother's body and has a beating heart or shows other signs of life. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.

The bill specifically states it is not meant in any way to "affirm, deny, expand or contract any legal status or legal rights" regarding the unborn.

The president said the law is "a step toward the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. It is a step toward the day when the promises of the Declaration of Independence will apply to everyone, not just those with the voice and power to defend their rights."

Among those attending yesterday's signing ceremony was Gianna Jessen, a 25-year-old who in 1977 survived an attempted saline abortion at 7½ months. She now travels the country as a pro-life advocate.

Ohio Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, who sponsored the House bill and attended yesterday's signing, called the new law, "an important first step to protecting innocent human life in this country."

Mr. Chabot said the next step is for Congress to pass legislation banning so-called partial birth abortion. The House passed such a ban, 274-151 on July 24, and now the issue is before the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, is working on the issue and Mr. Chabot said Mr. Santorum is, "determined to pull together the votes in the Senate" to pass a partial-birth abortion ban.

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