Texas is set to turn a very fake problem into a very real law. Monday night, the state's House of Representatives signed off on Plano Republican Jeff Leach's "Born Alive Protection Act," which would create civil and criminal penalties for doctors who fail to care for babies born after attempted abortions.
A bill similar to Leach's has already passed the Texas Senate. Once the House version gets formally sent to the Senate this week, the two chambers will iron out the small differences in their proposals before sending the final version to Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, no live births following abortion were reported in Texas from 2013 to 2016, the last year for which complete records are available. If such a birth were to occur — an event that is especially unlikely, given that Texas already bans abortions from being performed more than 20 weeks after conception, in most cases — state and federal laws both provide protections for the person being born.
On the House floor Tuesday, Leach acknowledged the redundancy of his bill but said he intended to make sure doctors who violated the laws faced punishment. House Bill 16 would create a minimum fine of $100,000 for doctors who fail to care for a baby that survives an abortion. Any doctor who showed "gross negligence" in his or her failure to care for the infant could face third-degree felony charges if the bill becomes law.
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"I don't believe (current law) goes far enough, so House Bill 16 seeks to clarify and provide teeth and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that a Texas baby that is born alive after an abortion receives the highest standards of medical care from that physician," Leach said.
Donna Howard, a Democrat from Austin, was the only House member to debate Leach on the bill. She said it wasn't worth the chamber's time and asked those House members who opposed the bill to mark themselves as present, rather than voting against it. The final vote count was 93-1, with 50 members present.
"The aim of HB 16 is clear — further stigmatize abortion, misinform the public, intimidate physicians and interfere with a woman’s ability to seek medical care," Howard said. "We refuse to waste limited time we have here by entertaining malicious and purely political attacks against women and doctors."