Gov. Abbott Signs HB 16, Protecting Infants After Botched Abortion Attempts

An embryo at 10 weeks gestation (8 weeks after fertilization). (Photo Credit:  Suparna Sinha .)

An embryo at 10 weeks gestation (8 weeks after fertilization). (Photo Credit: Suparna Sinha.)

June 14, 2019 - State Capital (Austin, Texas)

Article By: Jonathan Guajardo - Editor-in-Chief, SA Sentinel

Governor Greg Abbott. (Photo Credit:  Gage Skidmore  )

Governor Greg Abbott. (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Friday at the State Capital, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 16, commonly known as the Texas Born-Alive Protection Act. The bill, authored by State Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano), requires basic medical care to be provided to babies who survive abortion procedures.

"At the heart of the bill, the 'Texas Born-Alive Protection Act' — it is designed to strengthen the protections to those babies who survive abortions," said Leach, describing the purpose of the Act.

State Representative Jeff Leach. (Photo Credit: Matt Davis.)

State Representative Jeff Leach. (Photo Credit: Matt Davis.)

HB 16 describes itself as: “An act relating to the enforcement of the rights of a living unborn child after an abortion; providing a civil penalty; creating a criminal offense.” These offenses described in the bill do not affect the mother of the child, but rather that of the physician providing the abortion. HB 16 further establishes a physician-patient relationship between the birthed child and the doctor performing the procedure whereby if the physician failed to provide the child with proper medical treatment after birth, they would face a third-degree felony with a fine of up to $100,000.

The language of the bill further goes on to describe the care the physician will need to provide for the baby after birth. “The physician must exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious physician would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age,” reads HB 16.

Under the Born-Alive Protection Act, the woman on whom the abortion is being performed would not be held liable for any offense and the full weight of the felony would fall upon the physician who knowingly failed to provide the infant with proper care after birth. “A woman on whom an abortion, as defined by Section 245.002, Health and Safety Code, is performed or attempted to be performed may not be held liable under this section,” reads the bill.

Some Democratic opponents of the bill such as Representative Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston) deem it an unnecessary restraint upon abortive procedures. “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,” said Dutton Jr. in response to the bill’s passage.

Age at Death for Deaths Involving Induced Terminations

*According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

While opponents knock the bill’s necessity, proponents point to the fact that it is a necessary measure to save the lives of infants who survive abortions. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides statistical analysis pointing to at least 143 babies dying after being born due to a botched abortion procedure between 2003 and 2014 in the United States alone. The CDC also states that the actual number could be higher, and that the 143 listed amount of deaths “underestimates the total number of deaths involving induced termination.”

The bill saw a good amount of bi-partisan support in the Texas Senate, passing in May with a vote of 21-10. The bill’s journey in the Texas House was slightly more tumultuous, with 50 legislators not voting due to a request from pro-abortion State Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin). When the final votes were tallied, however, the bill still passed 93-1.

The Texas version of the bill stemmed in part from an attempt to pass similar legislation at the national level. Referred to as the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” the bill had very similar language to HB 16 and would have required practitioners to “ensure that the child born alive is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.” The Act would also have threatened physicians who failed to provide adequate care with up to five years prison time and possible first-degree murder charges. Although a fair effort was made by Republican legislators to pass the bill, it failed to meet the 60 votes required to move on to the President’s desk for signature.

Representative Leach addressed this matter during the bill’s hearing. “Where other states are passing legislations protecting abortionists…and where Washington D.C. can’t even bring the bill up for a vote, Texas will act,” said Leach.

With its passage in both the Texas Senate and House, as well as its signature by Governor Abbott, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act will go into effect on September 1, 2019.