Ana Lopez
Ana Lopez

The Texas Tribune

Colloquially known as the “born-alive” bill, House Bill 16 would amend Texas Family Code to punish health practitioners with a civil penalty, to the tune of $100,000 or more, for “fail[ing] to provide the appropriate medical treatment … to a child born alive after [an] abortion.”

Gov. Abbott, if you’re reading this, don’t sign it into law.

If this becomes law, parents of babies with severe fetal abnormalities who wish to hold their offspring and properly say goodbye, could be stripped of that right, because physicians would fear steep fines if they don’t take extreme measures to preserve the already dwindling life of the fetus.

The commonly practiced “comfort care” that is prescribed for a nonviable fetus after delivery allows for a natural death without the poking, prodding and jostling required by the resuscitation mandated by this bill. After a diagnosis of nonviability, parents decide how they want to proceed – breastfeeding the newborn, feeding them, baptizing them and the like.

This is a sensitive time for parents and extreme precaution must be taken to ensure that the care of the nonviable newborn is in accordance with the parents’ wishes, not the Texas Legislature’s.

Governor, your party preaches adherence to local control. This mandate would do the exact opposite – the Powers That Be would decide how parents prepare for and mourn the loss of nonviable offspring.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 1.3% of abortions are performed at or after 21 weeks’ gestation. The vast majority of abortions are performed before 13 weeks’ gestation. At this gestational age, the fetus is the size of a small peach.

The lungs are not matured. The intestines aren’t even fully inside the fetus; they’re in the process of migrating from the umbilical cord into the fetal abdomen. The organs are too immature for survival outside the womb. Sure, the fetus has fingerprints and eyeballs, but it cannot survive outside the womb under any circumstances.

How do lawmakers negotiate the lack of data that supports this misguided bill? The argument in the analysis of this legislation says a physician aiding in “delivery” would be required to “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious physician would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”

The mentality here appears to be that – appropriate to the anti-choice rhetoric about how abortion providers are heartless monsters – if a termination of pregnancy in the later gestational stages must occur, physicians just, for lack of a better term, discard the “born-alive” infant, resulting in a one-sided decision on the part of the provider with no regard for the family’s wishes.

Abortions under these circumstances are often heart-wrenching, difficult decisions made between the family and doctor. This egregious logic goes against the Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm.

There is no infanticide going on in the operating room – that’s already illegal. As there have been no reported live births post-abortion, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the circumstances contemplated in this bill are already tremendously rare.

The anti-abortion lobby of Texas won over the House and Senate with this outrageous, contemptuous bill, which now lies in the hands of the governor. Will the wishes of the parents of nonviable newborns be shirked, once and for all?

Abbott, if you care about the well-being of families in difficult times like these – where parents must bid farewell to a child they’d probably built a nursery for, decided on a name for and perhaps set aside college money for – don’t make this nightmare a reality.

The Feds didn’t do it. You should not either.

Ana Lopez is a recent graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, and was honored as Plan II Honors Distinguished Graduate. She plans to continue political advocacy work and hopes to run for Congress and help reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban.

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