Following a rise in legislation targeting abortion such as the Born-Alive abortion bill, students continue to be placed in difficult situations as they may lack the money and transportation necessary when seeking an abortion, according to Planned Parenthood Generation Action president Prachi Misra.
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, passed Jan. 11 in the House of Representatives, requires health care providers to try to preserve the life of an infant that is born alive during or after an attempted abortion.
It mandates that physicians give the same degree of care as another premature child would receive when an infant survives an attempted abortion and that they are taken to a hospital.
Under the bill, health care providers who do not comply with the requirements could face fines and up to five years in prison. The mother, however, would not face any penalties and would be protected from any prosecution.
College students are particularly vulnerable to the effects of bills targeting abortion given their different responsibilities, according to Misra.
“People and students who are in college have so many bills to pay. They have their debt because of college and to be able to afford a flight and the medical procedure itself – it just makes it so much harder,” Misra said.
The bill passed in the House of Representatives following a 220-210 vote after being introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner from Missouri. It is not expected to pass through the Democrat-controlled Senate.
For the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, vice-president Kamala Harris visited Tallahassee and made a push for abortion rights, according to ABC News. The Democrat party is expected to make abortion a key issue in 2024, when Gov. DeSantis might seek a Republican presidential nomination.
Consequences such as fear mongering and decreasing access to abortion are likely to follow if the bill were to pass, according to Misra. Doctors might be afraid of performing abortions in the rare case that an infant could survive the procedure, she said.
“To me, it seems like the bill is mostly like criminalizing doctors. And I think it’s a lot of fear mongering for an issue that doesn’t really exist,” Misra said. “They’re focusing on something that only applies to a very, very small amount of cases. It kind of just makes abortion seem like a bad thing when it’s not.”
Most abortions are performed before the stage in development when a fetus could theoretically survive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 90% of abortions are performed at 13 weeks of gestation or less, and fewer percentages of abortions occur as development continues.
Cases in which infants are born alive following an abortion are also rare. In Minnesota, there were over 10,000 abortions performed in 2017, three of which resulted in failed abortions, according to a health department report.
The bill protects mothers and that should be seen as a positive, according to Students for Life vice-president Joseph Levesque. Under the act, mothers would be able to bring a civil action suit against health care providers or employees who committed violations. They could be awarded statutory damages and monetary damages for physical and psychological injuries.
“And, for us as pro-life, that’s half of the movement,” Levesque said. “ [It] is protecting the mother, defending the mother, giving her what she needs in these tough situations.”
The physicians who actually perform these procedures and have a duty to care for patients are the ones being harmed, according to Misra. Doctors are already required by law to provide appropriate medical care making the bill unnecessary, she said.
Enacted in 2002, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act says that a child born at any stage of development should be recognized as a person and human being, and is therefore entitled to the same legal protections. This bill, however, does not impose any penalties on healthcare providers.
Doctors should easily be able to understand the contents of this bill, according to Levesque. This bill is really about medical malpractice and the penalty should relate to that, he said.
Abortion is not mentioned in the Bill of Rights, and therefore, should be left up to the states, according to Levesque. The government should take action against abortion because it was made to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and should also be making more efforts to support the mothers in these situations, he said.
“If the truth is that the fetus or embryo in the mother’s womb is a living human being, which I believe that it is, but if that’s the truth that will prevail,” Levesque said. “If it is a living human being, that life deserves protection, and I think our laws should strive to protect that life.”
A federal law codifying Roe v. Wade would be ideal, according to Misra. The landmark case was the floor, not the ceiling, she said. Now that the topic of abortion is up to the states, the situation is particularly difficult for college students who may lack the transportation or money required to seek an abortion out-of-state, she said.
“The reality is that most of America is pro-abortion and pro-choice. So it shouldn’t really be like a political argument,” Misra said.