RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – A bill that would make it a felony for a doctor not to perform lifesaving measures on a baby born alive during a failed abortion passed the North Carolina Senate on Monday night.
If a living baby is born despite an abortion attempt, Senate Bill 359, also called the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, would require any present health care practitioner to administer care to the newborn as they would any other patient.
Doctors could face a felony charge, prison time and a possible $250,000 fine for violations.
“It shall constitute murder where a child is born alive, but dies as a result of injuries inflicted prior to the child being born or dies as a result of an intentional, overt act performed after the child is born alive,” the bill states, specifically referring to the duties it assigns to medical professionals.
Any person with knowledge of a doctor’s failure to comply would have to report it to state or federal authorities, according to the bill that was filed March 26 by Republican State Senators Joyce Krawiec, Ralph Hise and Kathy Harrington.
Any baby that has a beating heart, detectable breathing, voluntary muscle movement or a pulsating umbilical cord is considered born alive under the bill.
A mother cannot be prosecuted for her doctor’s failure to comply with the proposed law or for neglecting to report the physician’s actions.
Women who sought pertinent abortions could sue a physician if they violate the would-be rules, and could seek additional statutory damages equal to three times the cost of the attempted abortion procedure.
Only two Democrats in the North Carolina Senate joined all the chamber’s Republican members in passing the bill 28-19 on Monday night.
“It’s clear allowing a living, breathing child to die without any attempt to provide lifesaving care is infanticide, plain and simple,” Krawiec told Senate members during the floor debate. “No, we do not have laws in place protecting babies who are born alive as the result of an abortion.”
She added there is no way of knowing how often the situation targeted by the legislation actually occurs.
Democratic opponents argued it is not often and is already regulated, according an Associated Press report.
“There is no need for the legislature to criminalize these complex medical decisions that are best left up to patients and their doctors,” Senator Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, rebutted. “It is not grounded in medical science. It is not grounded in fact.”
Van Duyn said the bill is being used as a way to stigmatize reproductive health care providers.
The bill now goes to the North Carolina House of Representatives for another vote. However, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has criticized the legislation and is expected to veto it.
An abortion attempt that results in a living newborn is most likely to occur if the procedure is done late in a woman’s pregnancy.
For several years in North Carolina, abortions were banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life was in danger, but U.S. District Judge William Osteen Jr. overturned the ban last month, ruling that the timeline was arbitrary and could violate women’s reproductive rights.
That ruling has been temporarily stayed pending review by lawmakers.
If the governor signs the born-alive bill into law, which seems unlikely, it would become effective Dec. 1.