Franks urges action on pro-life bill stalled in Senate for a year

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, urged the Senate to act on the anti-abortion Born Alive Protection Act, which stalled in the Senate after passing the House a year ago. (Photo by Sabella Scalise/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – More than a year after his Born Alive Protection Act passed the House, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, called on senators to act on the bill before the legislative calendar runs out.

The measure, passed last September at the peak of fighting over funding for Planned Parenthood, would make any doctor who is present during a failed abortion to admit the “born alive” infant to a hospital or face criminal charges.

Critics at the time called it just another “attack on women’s health,” saying that current federal law already has protections for infants in such situations and said Franks’ bill was a solution in search of a problem.

But Franks and supporters disagreed at a news conference Tuesday where they demanded a vote on the measure, which has yet to get even a hearing in the Senate.

“If we do not have the courage to protect born-alive children, then I would submit to you that all is lost and that the Founding Fathers’ dream was just that, a mad dream,” Franks said.

The clock is ticking on the bill. Congress has only a few more days before it goes on recess to campaign, not returning until after the elections in November. There are only 20 workdays scheduled in the lame-duck session before this Congress leaves office.

The bill was rushed through the House last year, introduced on Sept. 15, pushed without a committee hearing to the floor where it passed on Sept. 18 on a 248-177 vote. All but five Democrats voted against the measure and every Republican who cast a vote voted in favor of it.

The measure was sent to the Senate several days later where it has been stalled since.

At a news conference organized Tuesday by the Hosea Initiative, a pro-life group, speakers said it’s not too late for the Senate to take up the measure. They pointed to a book by Hosea Initiative President Terry Beatley on the co-founder of NARAL who shifted from pro-choice to pro-life — proof, they said, that even the most polarized mind can have a change of heart.

-Cronkite News video by Sabella Scalise

“What a great message that is,” Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, said of Beatley’s book.

“It is a story not only of the evilness and the wrongheadedness of abortion and how a scientific mind can be changed but it is also … a story of redemption,” Cramer said.

Beatley, who was also at a hearing Franks held Friday on the bill, said there’s “no reason to not bring this bill to the floor” in the Senate.

Pro-choice groups did not return calls seeking comment on the measure Wednesday, but opponents had plenty of reasons not to bring the bill up for a vote last year when the House considered it.

Rep. Jim McGovern D-Massachusetts, at the time called it “destructive legislation” and an “attack on women’s health.”

“The bill fundamentally interferes with the sacred doctor-patient relationship,” McGovern said, according to remarks posted by his office. “It undermines doctors’ clinical judgment and tells them how to provide medicine. Or else they will face criminal penalties.”

Those penalties include fines or up to five years in prison for doctors who don’t “exercise the same degree of skill, care and diligence” for a born-alive baby that they would for any other, including admitting the baby to a hospital. Doctors could also be prosecuted for killing or attempting to kill a human being in such cases.

McGovern also criticized House leaders for pushing the bill through at a time when Congress was just days away from a deadline to pass a federal budget – much as it is now.

“I would say to my colleagues that we ought to reject this and get down to the business of governing this country,” McGovern said then.

But Franks and others at the news conference believe there is still hope with six days left before the Senate is scheduled to recess.

“It is especially important given the notion that we are at the dawn of a new election and new direction for this country,” Franks said. “So I call upon the U.S. Senate to vote on the Born Alive Survivors Protection Act.”