By Jessica Mathews/

A local lawmaker has introduced legislation that aims to protect an infant that survives a failed abortion, while opponents counter that laws offering the same protections are already on the books and it’s just another political stunt in an election year.

Republican State Senator Lana Theis of Brighton Township introduced legislation this week that she says strengthens the state Born Alive Infant Protection Act. It would require that infants who survive an abortion be given the same standard of health care, professional skill and diligence to preserve life as other infants who are born alive in Michigan. "Life is a precious gift and it is worth protecting. We have an obligation to ensure the health and well-being of every child, regardless of how they enter this world."

There is currently a federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act that passed in 2002 with bi-partisan support and already extends full legal protection to an infant that is born alive after a failed attempt at induced abortion. Theis’ Chief of Staff Meghan Reckling clarified there is also a state Born Alive Infant Protection Act but it only deals with the process of a mother surrendering a child and the medical care provided afterwards. She says the latest legislation proposed by Theis would amend that existing law to add protections for babies who are survivors of abortion. Specifically, it would include criminal penalties for doctors and impose specific requirements for medical care and treatment based upon gestational age.

Abortion-rights advocates view the legislation as another strategic, political attempt by Republicans to get voters fired up in an election year with language that paints a false picture of abortion and makes up a problem that doesn’t exist. Abortions in the third trimester are extremely rare. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan Spokesperson Angela Vasquez-Giroux tells WHMI “leave it to anti-abortion extremists in an election year to write inflammatory legislation that duplicates an existing and unnecessary law to rally their base. State law explicitly affords, and medical professionals are already obligated to provide, the same protections and privileges available to all people to any infant that is born.”

Under Senate Bills 814, sponsored by Theis, and 815, sponsored by Republican Senator Michael D. MacDonald of Macomb Township, if an abortion is performed in a hospital and results in a live birth, the attending physician would be required to provide immediate medical care to the child and inform the mother that her child was born alive. Should the failed abortion occur in a setting other than a hospital, the person who performed the procedure would similarly be required to provide immediate medical care, inform the mother and call 911 for an emergency transfer to a hospital. Should a physician violate the proposed law’s requirements, they would face a felony charge that is punishable by up to two years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $50,000, or both. Under no circumstances would the mother of the child face any legal consequences. Additionally, anyone who has knowledge that a physician failed to comply with the proposed law and who also fails to report it would face a misdemeanor charge punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days, a fine of not more than $500, or both.

SB 814 and SB 815 are expected to be referred to the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee for consideration. The complete press release from Theis on the proposed legislation is attached. (JM)