Why Does Rep. Matt Schaefer Want Women to Give Birth to Almost-Dead Babies?

When Texas lawmakers banned abortions after 20 weeks in 2013, the ban wasn't totally devoid of compassion for women. There were a few exceptions to the 20-week ban; for instance, abortions "that are performed on unborn children with severe fetal abnormalities" would still be allowed. For Representative Matt Schaefer, a Tyler Republican, that wasn't good enough. Schaefer is now proposing an amendment to a bill that originally had little to do with abortion but is now getting abortion-crazy, as bills tend to do here. Under Schaefer's measure, abortions performed 20 weeks after conception "on the basis that the fetus has a severe and irreversible abnormality" would no longer be allowed.

Schaefer, of course, has a nice, flowery way of describing fetal abnormalities. The phrase "dead babies" is notably absent from Schaefer's speech introducing the amendment on the House floor:

"In my opinion, this practice just doesn't value what God values, and God values that life inside the womb. God values that child who is defenseless. And when you think about a baby inside its mother, it's the most defenseless among all of our people. But a baby that has abnormalities is even more defenseless, and we have seen a trend, not just in the United States, but in other parts of the world, that these babies, because they may have severe disabilities, are being aborted for that reason."

His beautiful way of describing fetal abnormalities distracts the public from the crude question: Why force women to give birth to dead babies? In an email to Unfair Park, Schaefer insists that his amendment won't do that. "It deals only with living babies," he writes. "This is about protecting disabled babies from late-term abortions after 20 weeks when they feel pain. Your question is based upon a lie that has been spread by opponents of the measure."

Fine. What if the "severe and irreversible abnormality" is anencephaly, a condition in which the fetus develops without much of its brain and skull? Babies with the condition rarely survive more than a few days outside the womb. "Have you read the amendment?" Schaefer responded, otherwise refusing to answer the question.

The amendment doesn't address anencephaly specifically, but Schaefer has previously given a shout-out to women bearing fetuses that wouldn't survive more than a few days outside the womb. "That doesn't discount a mother and family who's in a situation where the baby is not going to survive for very long, and that tears at my heart for that situation, and I know that's very difficult," he said on the House floor before adding a caveat: "But the healing hands of a physician are for healing, not for destroying. The purpose of this agency is public health, not to destroy life. " We stand formally corrected. Schaefer will not force women to give birth to dead babies. Under his measure, women will only be forced to give birth to almost-dead babies.

Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.