Texas House Sends Governor a Bill That Punishes Doctors Who Fail to Treat Infants Born After Abortions

Updated at 2:40 p.m., June 17, 2019: to note that Abbott has signed the bill.AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott has approved a bill that would penalize a physician who fails to treat an infant born alive after an abortion.Without fanfare, Abbott signed House Bill 16 into law on Friday. It takes effect on Sept. 1.Last month, with only four days left in the session, House members agreed to Senate changes and sent Abbott the proposed "Born Alive" act, which would subject doctors to a six-figure fine and possible imprisonment.The vote, 84-57, mostly followed party lines. All Republicans who voted supported the measure.All but six Democrats — all of them from South Texas — voted "nay." Two Democrats were present but did not vote.The bill's author, GOP Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano, has insisted more "teeth" are needed in current laws. Mistreatment of a baby surviving an abortion "has happened in this country," he said.House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner of Grand Turner, though, suggested the "Born Alive" bill is little more than grandstanding.State and federal laws already outlaw murder and there's no record of post-abortion births in Texas, noted Turner, who voted against the bill."This whole thing is somewhat hypothetical because we all agree that [mistreatment of infants born alive after abortions] doesn't happen," he said.Leach shot back, "Oh, I disagree with that.""There is under current law not a physician-patient relationship that's created between that surviving baby and the physician," he said. "And that's what this bill does."Although Texas is one of 26 states with laws requiring physicians to provide medical care and treatment to infants born alive at any stage of development, Leach says his measure adds a vital enforcement element.Under the bill, the state attorney general could sue a physician who fails to treat a live infant to recover a fine of at least $100,000.Leach's bill also permits a third-degree felony charge, potentially leading to imprisonment for two years to 10 years, if a doctor fails to provide the same "degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child" as he or she would for "any other child born alive at the same gestational age." For doctors to meet the necessary standard of care, they must make sure an infant surviving an abortion is transferred to a hospital. The House had required the infant to be admitted for the standard to be met, though the Senate left a vaguer bar, requiring just an attempt to admit.In early April, the Senate passed a similar bill. Late last month, the House chose to advance its own.  Continue reading...

Copyright The Dallas Morning News
Contact Us