Blocking the Born-Alive Bill in the House is unconscionable

September 13, 2019

On Tuesday, Representative Ann Wagner (R–Mo.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R–La.) hosted a minority hearing on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to highlight the egregious fact that the bill has yet to receive a vote on the House floor. This ought to shock the conscience.

The bill seeks to protect children who survive an attempted abortion procedure and are born alive. If passed, the new law would require that abortion survivals be reported to law enforcement by the medical staff involved and that the surviving child be treated with the same level of medical care standard for any other child born prematurely. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Wagner, this legislation also takes the critical step to, “give the mother of the abortion survivor a civil cause of action and protection from prosecution, recognizing that women are the second victims of abortion and promoting the dignity of motherhood.”

The debate this year in Washington over infanticide is rightly shocking to many because it tragically flows from the abortion industry’s advocacy for late-term abortion in states like New York and Virginia. Those events shed light on how this legislation is as needed as it is commonsense. And yet when the bill was up for a vote in the Senate in February with the leadership of Senator Ben Sasse (R–Neb.), the measure failed 53-44. Since that vote, pro-life members of the House began an effort to force a vote in their chamber as well.

In April, Whip Scalise and Rep. Wagner filed a discharge petition in an effort to force the House of Representatives to vote. The petition must receive 218 signatures, a simple majority, to receive a floor vote. Each legislative day, a representative took to the floor and asked for unanimous consent for floor consideration of the Born-Alive bill. According to the Republican’s Born-Alive Act Tracker, the discharge petition immediately received signatures from 193 members of Congress, including two Democrats, “the highest number to sign a discharge petition in the first 24 hours in at least 22 years.” As of last count, the petition has attracted 201 signatures, just 17 short of a simple majority.

Witnesses to the worth of a child’s life

The title of this week’s hearing was “End Infanticide: Examining the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” and over 40 representatives participated. The members of Congress learned from medical professionals about the dangers of leaving these vulnerable infants outside the protection of the law. The witnesses included Jill Stanek, RN, a nurse who found an abortion survivor; Dr. Robin Pierucci, MD, a neonatologist and medical director of a 50-bed neonatal intensive-care unit; Dr. Kathi Aultman, M.D., a retired OB-GYN and former abortion provider; and Tessa Longbons, a research associate at The Charlotte Lozier Institute.

According to Whip Scalise, the hearing examined the bill and “its continued relevance to the debate regarding the protection of human life in the United States amid the Democrat Majority’s refusal to allow its consideration even though it is a commonsense bill supported by 77 percent of Americans and 70 percent of Democrats.” Notably, during the hearing several Democrats who signed this Republican-led petition were given special praise for reaching across the aisle to do what was right despite potential political harm from the abortion lobby.

The hearing highlighted the horrific practice of abortion providers leaving the born-alive child to die either from exposure or oxygen deprivation. If any other child of the same gestational age was born prematurely, and not elected for abortion, they would be given a much different standard of care including resuscitation, lung medication, and warmth, as premature infants lose heat very quicky.

Rep. Chris Smith (R–N.J.) was sure to note the importance of requiring that abortion survivals be reported because only seven states are currently keeping track. Without this reporting, Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby can continue wielding this lack of information to maniuplate public opinion, claiming that survival from late-term abortions are so rare as to be negligible.

Former abortion provider Dr. Aultman pointed to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that over 8,000 late-term abortions were performed in 2015 with 23 abortion survivals reported in Florida since 2013. Likewise, researcher Longbons explained that the CDC also found 143 confirmed instances of a child being born alive after an abortion procedure only to die later outside the womb. And Stanek shared how the hopsital where she was previously employed as a nurse estimated that 10-20% of abortions will fail to kill the child in the womb.

To the notions that children do not survive abortions, Dr. Aultman pointed to cases like Melissa Ohden, an abortion survivor who was recently interviewed on ERLC’s Capitol Conversations, and how over 300 abortion survivors are in contact today with the Abortion Survivors Network.

Dr. Aultman also dismantled the argument, barbaric as it may be, that modern techniques are always able to kill the child in the womb so this bill is just political messaging. She referenced a 2018 study from Europe published in Obstetrics and Gynecology in which “researchers reported a fetal survival rate of 50% when a feticide was not used in second trimester terminations between 20-24 weeks on babies with fetal or genetic anomalies.” 

Stanek’s own experience speaking out against this kind of infanticide began when she came across a fellow nurse in her hospital who had been asked to leave a child who survived an abortion in a utility room to die. She stayed with the child through the last moments so the child wouldn’t die alone.

While many of her descriptions during the hearing were disturbing stories of neglect and disdain for the life of the child, what stands stranger and more terrifying is her description of “Comfort Care.” Stanek noted that this practice is similar to what was described earlier this year by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northram. When discussing late third-trimester abortions, Gov. Northam said, “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” Stanek explained how the Comfort Room of her former hospital had stations for taking a photo with the dying child, making baby bracelets, getting the footprints of the child on a memento, and for procuring the supplies to even baptize the child, before ultimately leaving them to die from exposure with no attempt to save them.

As the members of Congress and the medical professionals discussed such horrific stories in graphic detail, each witness affirmed the inherent dignity due to these children because of their undeniable personhood. This is what makes this so tragic. Less optimistic points of the event focused on how these children can feel the pain of these procedures and how parents grieve over the death of any one of their children. Not to be missed were the powerful stories of children who survived horrific conditions, such as elected abortion, and are now thriving in adulthood, enjoying the life God has given.

This moment in American life may well cause some in the pro-life community to despair, but there are reasons for hope all around us if we look for them. In the very state that sparked this current debate is a reminder of the human dignity of the unborn. At the base of the One World Trade Center, New York memorialized the thousands of lives our country lost 18 years ago this week. Among those souls lost to eternity that tragic day were 11 women expecting children. Forever etched in stone at the memorial reads the name of the expectant mother “and her unborn child.” Here, New York is right, and we join them in grieving the loss of both precious lives because both were made in the image of God.

The pro-life work for human dignity is a long arc, but the work is worth it.

ERLC Intern Ben Arildsen contributed to this article.

Jeff Pickering

Jeff Pickering is the director of the Initiative on Faith & Public Life, a project of the American Enterprise Institute. AEI is a leading public policy think tank in Washington, DC and the initiative exists to equip Christian college students for faithful engagement in public life. Jeff moved to Washington … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24