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'Born-Alive' Abortion Measure Clears NC Senate

NC Legislature
Colin Campbell
Leslie Maynor Locklear, left, talks about losing her two sons to opioid overdoses. She joined Republican senators at a news conference on a bill with stricter criminal penalties for opioid dealers.

North Carolina's Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would require doctors to provide the same duty of care for a child who is born alive after an attempted abortion that they would for any other newborn.

Those who fail to make such effort to safeguard a child born after an abortion attempt could face civil penalties and be charged with a misdemeanor, which includes a fine of up to $250,000.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper rejected a similar measure in 2019, citing "unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients." Republicans overturned his veto in one chamber, but did not have the votes to do so in the other. The latest proposal likely would face a similar Cooper veto.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Forsyth County Republican and a sponsor of the "born-alive" bill, said her proposal does not aim to limit a woman's decision about whether to go through with her pregnancy.

"This has nothing to do with abortion access," Krawiec said. "This has everything to do with a living human being breathing outside its mother's body — a citizen of this state and of the United States."

But Sen. Natalie Murdock, D-Durham, believes Senate Bill 405 is a solution in search of a problem and will have a damaging impact on families.

"This bill does not protect babies," Murdock said. "It makes it harder for doctors to provide the safe and legal medical care that they are trained to provide. It does not address an actual problem that exists in this state."

While Krawiec acknowledged she could not quantify the scope of the problem of children born after an attempted abortion, Sen. Todd Johnson, R-Union, was adamant it does happen in many states, including North Carolina.

Abortion rights groups, including Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, oppose the measure, as they consider it an attack on a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina warned that if the bill becomes law, doctors would be forced to make futile efforts to keep alive infants with no chance of survival.

"Medical professionals are trained to make appropriate decisions about what actions they should take in certain scenarios," Liz Barber, an ACLU of North Carolina policy analyst, said in a news release. "It is unimaginable that lawmakers would interject themselves into those final moments in a way that disregards a family's wishes and a doctor's training during such a difficult time."

Anti-abortion activists say the bill deserves more widespread support.

"Everyone should be able to agree that the circumstance surrounding a child at birth should not determine their right to life," Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the conservative North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a release. "The vote this afternoon by the North Carolina Senate guarantees compassion and perinatal medical services to any infant born alive as a result of an abortion."

The bill passed by a vote of 28-21 and now heads to the House. If given final approval, the measure would head to Cooper's desk.

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