- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

The House passed a bill yesterday clarifying that an infant born alive is considered a person under federal law, regardless of whether it survived an abortion or is too underdeveloped to survive long term.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, said the bill "affirms that every child who is born alive has an intrinsic dignity, which does not depend on the interests or convenience of anyone else." It was passed Tuesday night by voice vote.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and ranking member on the Judiciary Constitution subcommittee, said the bill "changes nothing, but as the Hippocratic oath says, would 'do no harm.'"
Mr. Sensenbrenner and other supporters say the bill is needed because there has been an erosion of the legal rights of born-alive infants.
Supporters specifically point to so-called "live-birth" abortions, where the doctor induces premature labor and, if the baby is alive after birth, it is allowed to die.
A nurse who worked at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., testified before the Judiciary Constitution subcommittee that doctors at the hospital used the procedure in the past, and live infants sometimes were left alone to die in a utility closet.
Sandi Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, said the bill is "an effort to make sure these babies are given the same treatment as other newborns" and to "make sure that treatment is not withheld because the parents and doctors have determined that the baby is not worthy of life."
Under the bill, the legal definition of "person," "human being," "child," and "individual" under federal laws or federal agency rules would include any human that is born alive, meaning it is completely outside of its mother's body and has a beating heart or shows certain other signs of life. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have similar laws on the books.
To address the concerns of some who support abortion rights, the bill specifically states that it is not meant in any way to "affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal rights" regarding the unborn.
Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Constitution panel, said the bill also would not "mandate medical treatment where none is currently indicated."
Mr. Nadler insisted the bill is unnecessary because current law already protects infants born alive. He called consideration of the bill a "show for anti-abortion extremists."
The bill now goes to the Senate.
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, said Senate supporters would have to attach it "as an amendment to something else … but I think we would have a good shot … because it has broad support and is already included in something else."
The bill is already included in both the House and Senate patients' bill of rights legislation, but supporters are worried that bill will not make it out of conference.


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