On March 12, the House approved, by voice vote, a bill (H.R. 2175) that would change the definition of an individual under the U.S. criminal code. Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), the bill states that “the words ‘person,’ ‘human being,’ ‘child,’ and ‘individual,’ shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development. The measure was considered under suspension of the rules, an expedited floor procedure that limits debate, prohibits amendments, and requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
The House passed a similar bill last year. Bill supporters said they were motivated by the stories of a nurse from Illinois who had witnessed babies survive therapeutic abortions but receive no medical care to enable long-term survival. Opponents claimed the bill was an attempt to undermine Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Noting that bill sponsors added language to make it clear that the bill “has nothing to do with matters related to abortion,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said, “Whatever concerns some may have had that this bill might be some clever way to undermine the rights protected under Roe v. Wade have, I think, been eliminated.” However, Rep. Nadler continued, “I see no harm in passing the bill. I see no good in passing the bill either, except that it will satisfy the concerns of some people about some recent Supreme Court decisions.”
House Judiciary Committee Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) said that the bill “draws a bright line between the right to abortion and infanticide, or the killing or criminal neglect of completely born children, adding, “This recognition would take effect upon the live birth of an infant, regardless of whether or not his or her development is sufficient to permit long-term survival and regardless of whether or not he or she survived an abortion.” A similar bill (S. 1050) has been sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and was included in the Senate-passed patients’ bill of rights (S. 1052).