N.C. Senate passes “Born-Alive” abortion bill in party-line vote

The N.C. Senate passed a new version of legislation Tuesday that would require doctors to attempt to save the life of any child born as the result of a failed abortion.

Senate Bill 405, the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” is a slightly amended version of a measure vetoed in 2019 by Gov. Roy Cooper. It is expected to pass in the state House and again face a veto Republicans in the General Assembly do not have the votes to overturn.

In tense and sometime emotional debate on the Senate floor Tuesday, Republican Senators told anecdotal stories of infants born after attempted abortions left to die and read testimony from people who said they themselves survived failed abortions.

Democrats said the testimony of survivors does not prove that there is an epidemic of infants being born alive and left to die by uncaring doctors and nurses. Rather, it strengthens the argument that in the rare cases in which children survive failed abortions, medical professionals are already doing their duty to care for infants in their charge.

Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham)

“There are already state and federal laws that protect newborns,” said Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham). “Further, physicians are obligated by medical ethics and licensing regulations to provide appropriate medical treatment just as they are for all types of people. Failure to do so in the manner suggested by this bill could result in loss of credentials, supervision, revocation of their medical license, a malpractice lawsuit and even criminal charges.”

Murdock, whose mother was a pediatric nurse, said Republicans who oppose abortion are attempting to involve themselves in the difficult and complex decisions about care and viability that should be the province of the families and doctors.

Democrats called the bill a stealth challenge to the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which established a right to legal abortion. It further stigmatizes the practice, they said, and demonizes doctors who perform the procedure – sometimes in circumstances where the survival of the child is not possible.

Republican Senators said that’s not true, denying that the bill has anything to do with attempts to limit access to legal abortion or overturn Roe v. Wade.

“My entire adult life, whenever I hear folks talk about abortion, the first thing I always hear is ‘my body, my choice,'” said Sen. Todd Johnson (R-Union). “Hadn’t heard much about that in the last year when we’ve been talking about mask mandates and vaccine mandates, but it’s still something I’ve heard my entire life. Let’s be clear: we’re not talking about abortion. We’re talking about a child that is completely separate from the body of its mother. So that begs this one question I’d like each one of you to think about. If somebody has an answer for me, I’d love to have it. When do human rights begin? How old do you have to be to have human rights? Is it five minutes? Is it five months? Is it five years? A child  that is separated from its mother has rights immediately. And all this bill does is mandates that a doctor take care of a living human being.”

Sen. Todd Johnson (R-Union)

But legal experts say a variety of laws already exist to protect infants born under these conditions. They range from the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act passed by Congress in 2002.

Debate on the legislation this week has been tinged with the language of the culture war over legal abortion in America that has raged for decades. Proponents of the bill have cast it in religious and political terms, with Senators repeatedly referring to the “so-called right to abortion” during debate and political allies arguing bills like S405 are necessary precisely because the courts have rejected Republican efforts to further limit access.

“This bill is even more important now that our 20-week limit on abortion has been challenged in court by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, in a Tuesday committee meeting on the bill. “Because of that lawsuit abortions can be performed up to birth because the abortionist is allowed to determine when the baby is viable under the lower court’s ruling. Unless the lower court’s ruling is overturned, more babies will be born alive during abortions in North Carolina.”

Susanna Birdsong, North Carolina Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood’s South Atlantic region, called the bill “an attack on medical providers, particularly doctors who provide care to patients experiencing complex pregnancies.”

“This bill is a complete waste of time and taxpayer resources and another distraction from the fact that state lawmakers have not prioritized legislation that would expand access to health care for low-income North Carolinians, improve maternal mortality in the state, or provide workplace accommodations for people who are pregnant,” she said in a Wednesday statement.

The bill passed the Senate on a party-line vote, 28-21. It now heads to the House, where another party-line vote is expected.

The “Born-Alive” bill is one of two abortion-related bills in play this legislative session.

The other, House Bill 453, would prohibit a doctor from performing an abortion if a pregnant woman wants one due to the race of the fetus or the detection of Down syndrome during pregnancy.

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Leading Duke pediatrician: I would definitely vaccinate my children against COVID

Good news in the battle against COVID-19 this week as the Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted Pfizer’s request to allow their vaccine to be given to 12-15 years olds under an emergency use authorization.

Dr. Michael Smith, a Duke University pediatrician and infectious disease specialist, was involved in the pediatric trials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Smith told the media during a Tuesday video conference that he would trust the vaccine with his own children.

Duke University pediatrician Dr. Michael Smith

“For me personally, I have no doubts about that. I wish my children were old enough to get this vaccine. I would definitely vaccinate them,” said Dr. Smith.”But I think there’s a lot of myths and rumors out there we need to work on dispelling.”

Roughly 2,300 hundred children nationwide took part in the initial study, with half receiving the Pfizer vaccine and half receiving a placebo. Just over 100 of those children enrolled in the study got the vaccine at Duke.

“If you got the vaccine in this trial, you did not get COVID.”

If the CDC signs off on emergency authorization on Wednesday, Thursday would be the first day shots could become available for children 12 to 15 years old.

It’s worth noting in that age group, the dosage of the Pfizer vaccine will be the same as what adults have received. Also, as with adults, this will be two shots, given three weeks apart.

Side effects are similar to what has been seen in adults, a sore arm, in some cases a mild fever.

“Once we get younger, we have to slow down things down a little bit and make sure we have the right dose that is safe for younger children and effective for younger children,” Smith explained.

The Duke clinic is currently conducting a smaller trial on children younger than 12-years-old to make sure they find that right dose for a smaller person.

Once they have than answer, they will begin work on a larger randomized, controlled trial of the vaccine down to children as young as six-months.

And even with thousands of  additional young people soon eligible to get a protective vaccine, Dr. Smith believes there will not be a shortage.

“This would be a great problem to have that there’s so much demand that we run out of vaccine, but again there’s plenty of vaccine that can be made. I don’t see this being a problem down the road.”

Since March of 2020, North Carolina has recorded 39,053 (4%) COVID-19 cases in the 10-14 age group. Nearly 34,000 cases (3%) fall in the 15-17 age bracket.

Source: NCDHHS


Bill to block Governor from from mandating vaccinations passes state House

Measure targets powers that Gov. Cooper has never sought to exercise

Backed by Republicans, a bill that would prohibit the Governor from mandating vaccination through executive orders passed the state House Monday. The bill (HB 572) also adds a highly specific provision to the statutes governing the rule-making process of government agencies — prohibiting agencies from penalizing those who refuse to be vaccinated when the agency requires vaccination as a condition of license receipt, renewal or reinstatement.

“This bill prevents the Governor or any of his agencies from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations through executive action,” said Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, one of the primary sponsors of the bill, said in a statement. “This decision should be up to each individual, not the Governor.”

The bill cleared the House 74-39 Monday, welcomed by dozens of supporters of the bill who applauded at its passage, most without any face covering.

As Policy Watch previously reported, some Democrats voiced their opposition to the bill at a committee hearing. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said the executive branch has a role in emergencies such as widespread deadly diseases.

Gov. Roy Cooper has encouraged North Carolinians to seek vaccines. In an ad urging North Carolinians to claim their spots for available shots, Cooper was joined by leadership from both parties — Republican House and Senate leaders Tim Moore and Phil Berger, as well as their Democratic counterparts Robert Reives and Dan Blue, all stressing the importance of vaccination to protect public health.

Cooper set a goal of achieving a vaccination rate of two-thirds of all adults before lifting the mask mandate, according to a press release. However, he has not issued any mandates ordering any groups to be vaccinated.

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Cabarrus Republican who co-sponsored the legislation, proposed an amendment adding a section granting businesses immunity from civil lawsuits if they treat employees and customers equally regardless of whether they’ve received a vaccine approved by the FDA for emergency use.

Yet the amendment was ruled out of order and failed to be adopted.

Ken Sweet

“The vaccines need to be fully tested in experiment,” Ken Sweet, a supporter of the bill said. “It hasn’t been tested and they’ve also been eliminating all the liabilities on it.” He said he is not against vaccines in general but has not gotten any of the COVID vaccines.

The bill made headway on the same day that the FDA authorized the Pfizer-bioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, after testing its safety on 2,260 participants, including 1,131 who received the vaccine and a 1,129 control group.

“Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” advances, setting up veto fight

An abortion-related bill is on its way to the Senate floor this week — and likely headed for a veto.

Senate Bill 405, the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” was reported favorably out of the Senate Rules committee Monday night. Under the measure, doctors who fail to provide care for an infant born after a failed abortion could be charged with a misdemeanor and face civil penalties. Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a nearly identical bill of the same name in 2019. Republicans tried to overturn that veto, but didn’t have the votes. They still don’t have enough votes to do so, without support from Democrats.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), primary sponsor of the bill, said this version of the bill lowers the criminal penalty from a felony to a Class I misdemeanor.

The bill’s sponsors said it is not about abortion but about protecting infants after they are born, despite the intention to abort a pregnancy.

“This is all about saving an infant, an innocent life that has been delivered outside of the mother’s body, no longer a part of the mother’s body,” Krawiec said. “It is by all definitions a living, breathing human – a citizen of America, of North Carolina.”

Krawiec shared stories she had been told about infants born after failed abortions left in empty rooms to die or tossed into medical waste bins.

“This is not humane,” Krawiec said.


Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth)

But legal experts say a variety of laws already exist to protect infants born under these conditions. They range from the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act passed by Congress in 2002.

Gov. Cooper also pointed to these protections in his statement on his veto of the similar 2019 bill.

“Laws already protect newborn babies and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients,” Cooper wrote.

Opponents of the current bill say its real goal is to further stigmatize legal abortion and promote the idea that medical professionals who perform abortions are willing to mistreat and kill infants who are born when abortions fail.

“The claims of this bill are blatantly false and are being pushed by anti-abortion activists in order to scare people and stigmatize reproductive health care,” said Susanna Birdsong, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood’s South Atlantic region. “Because the bill assesses criminal penalties to providers, the impact of the bill will be to intimidate providers from providing the care that their patients need.” Read more