Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following remarks in opposition to Republican legislation putting Congress between women and their doctors. The so-called Born Alive Abortion Survivor Protection Act (H.R. 4712) would have Congress set mandatory new standards of medical care for providers if an infant is born alive following an attempted abortion, and enforce criminal penalties against any provider who did not comply.
Below are Ranking Member Nadler’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 4712, the so-called “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.” Despite what its supporters would have us believe, this legislation would do nothing to enhance protections, or the quality of health care, if an infant is born after an attempted abortion. What it would do, however, is directly interfere with a doctor’s medical judgement and dictate a medical standard of care that may not be appropriate in all circumstances, which could, in fact, put infants’ lives at greater risk.
“Let me say at the outset of this debate, very clearly: It has always been the law that health care providers cannot deliberately harm newborn infants, and that they must exercise reasonable care in their treatment of such infants. The bill’s implication that providers who perform abortions routinely act in a callous or criminal manner that would result in an infant’s death, or that a provider who performs an abortion somehow cannot be trusted to take adequate measures to save a living baby’s life, is insulting and untrue.
“In opposing this bill, I do not oppose, in any way, proper medical treatment for newborn infants, whatever the circumstances of their birth. But determining the proper treatment is for medical professionals to decide, not politicians in Congress.
“When I supported the Born Alive Infant Protection Act in 2002, my reasoning, and the reasoning of my pro-choice colleagues, was simple: killing an infant who was born alive, either by an act of omission or commission, is infanticide. It was, is, and always should be, against the law, and we saw no harm in reaffirming that fact. That law passed Congress with bipartisan support precisely because it was harmless – even if it was also useless since it did not change the pre-existing law in any way. The bill specifically just reiterated existing law in florid language and did nothing to interfere with doctors’ medical judgment or cause needless harm.
“Unfortunately, the bill before us today puts children’s lives and health at risk. It requires doctors to immediately ensure transportation and admission of the infant to a hospital in all cases, with no regard as to whether doing so is in the best interest of the child’s health and well-being. This mandate effectively overrides the careful, case-by-case exercise of professional medical judgment by health care providers, and replaces it with a blanket rule enforceable with criminal penalties.
“Such a ham-fisted approach fails to consider the fact that in many cases, it may be safer, and more conducive to the infant’s health, to care for the infant where it was born, rather than transporting it many miles away. But this bill assumes that Congress knows better, and it imposes a new obligation on providers that, rather than saving lives, puts infants at risk.
“I am sure that such a result is not what the bill’s supporters intend, but all too often this is what happens when Members of Congress try to dictate a physician’s exercise of professional medical judgment. Perhaps if this bill had gone through regular order we could have avoided this unfortunate situation. But there has never been a Committee markup or a hearing on this bill. I would have welcomed the opportunity to hear from expert witnesses on best practices and standards of care for infants. Members could have offered amendments and perfected the bill to ensure that it achieves our common goal of providing the best, most medically-appropriate care to infants and their mothers.
“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that my colleagues rushed this bill to the floor when there is no evidence at all that doctors currently are failing to provide an appropriate level of care and a chorus of provider groups oppose the bill. This is clearly an effort to have this vote coincide with the presence of many anti-choice demonstrators in Washington. Sadly, rather than protecting infants, my Republican colleagues are putting them at greater risk in the service of politics.
“I cannot support H.R. 4712 because it mandates a particular course of treatment – immediate transport to a hospital – which may not be appropriate and may be medically dangerous in certain cases. It abandons the practice of considering the best medical interests of infants and their mothers. I urge my colleagues to reject this ill-conceived legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.”