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House Democrats defeat GOP effort to impose requirements on 'born-alive' abortions

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2019.      REUTERS/Jim Young
The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

The House Appropriations Committee defeated a GOP effort Wednesday to impose new requirements related to babies born alive after attempted abortions, after emotional debate featuring a pregnant GOP congresswoman and her personal story.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who is expecting her third child at the end of this month, spoke in support of the amendment that would block funding to entities that provide abortions unless practitioners abide by certain requirements in the rare case of babies born alive after attempted abortions. The requirements include ensuring that the child is “immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.”

Herrera Beutler discussed her pregnancy with her first child, Abigail, now 6, who was born without her kidneys but is doing well. She said she was urged by multiple health-care providers to end that pregnancy, finally finding a doctor who would follow her wishes to carry the baby to term.

“I just think how many other instances are there?” an emotional Herrera Beutler told the committee. “Most of these are moms who want these babies. They’re not wanting to terminate late because they didn’t want the pregnancies, it’s because there’s a problem and they were told there’s no chance.”

But Democrats on the committee forcefully rebutted arguments from Herrera Beutler and others in favor of the amendment by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

“This amendment is a ruse, a ruse to ban safe and legal abortion in the United States,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “That a woman could have an abortion as she gives birth is flat-out untrue, it is simply not how medicine works.”

Cole’s amendment was defeated 23-29, mostly along party lines. One Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, voted with the Republicans.

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The amendment vote came as the Appropriations Committee debated a mammoth $190 billion spending bill for HHS, Education, Labor and other related agencies. It includes other hot-button provisions related to abortion, guns and other issues, and debate was expected to continue into the evening.

Republicans have repeatedly pushed votes in the House and Senate this year related to so-called “born-alive abortion.”

The Republican push to pass these bills followed efforts in New York and Virginia to roll back restrictions surrounding late-term abortions, which represent a small minority of hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in the United States each year. Those abortions, experts say, typically are prompted by concerns for the mother’s health or fetal abnormalities. The topic also flared into controversy after comments by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, that Republicans claimed suggested that he favored killing live babies.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.3% of abortions in 2015 were performed at 21 weeks’ gestation or later. About 91% took place at or before 13 weeks of gestation.

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