The White House has announced that President Barack Obama will veto a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Friday that aims to protect babies born alive after abortions, saying it "would likely have a chilling effect" on women's healthcare providers.
The bill, known as the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (HR 3504) and authored by Rep. Trent Franks, punishes "whoever intentionally performs or attempts to perform an overt act that kills a child born alive."
Obama's expressed intention to veto the bill drew rebuke from pro-life advocates. "President Obama's subservience to the abortion lobby is so complete that he now threatens to use his pen to protect the abortionist who would kill a baby born alive, rather than to protect that helpless baby," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
NRLC legislative director Douglas Johnson added: "Congressional Democrats who follow the president into this extreme territory will have many future opportunities to try to explain why they voted against making it a crime to snip the spine of a born-alive baby, or to harvest that baby's liver while her heart still beats."
Rep. Chris Smith, for his part, said the bill "simply says any child who survives an abortion must be given the same care as any other premature baby born at the same gestational age," Life News reported.
The bill was passed with a 248-177 vote.
Senator Ben Sasse said he will introduce a similar bill in the Senate on Monday.
"If this isn't the most non-controversial sentence in American politics, it's time to check our national conscience: Newborn babies must receive care and attention," Sasse said. "Societies are judged by how we care for the vulnerable and surely anyone with a heart— regardless of where they stand on the abortion debate— should be able to agree that our laws should protect newborns."
A 2002 federal law recognises that "every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development" is a "person" for all federal law purposes.
Critics noted that when Obama was still an Illinois senator, he voted against a law that would have protected babies born alive from grisly abortions.
In 2008, Obama said that if he had been in the Senate in 2002, he would have voted for the law.
"So now we know – President Obama agreed that these born-alive babies are legal persons -- but he is also fine with allowing them to be killed because, gee whiz, to forbid killing them might 'chill' the availability of late abortions," Johnson said.
The White House said the President will veto the bill as it "would impose new legal requirements related to the provision of abortion services in certain circumstances, which would likely have a chilling effect, reducing access to care."