Sept. 30, 2020
On September 25, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) that reinforces existing protections for children born premature, with disabilities, or in medical distress, including infants who survive abortion. The Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children responds to credible concerns that some hospitals have refused to provide medical screening and stabilizing treatment to such children because “they believe[d] these infants may not survive, may have to live with long-term disabilities, or may have a quality-of-life deemed to be inadequate.” However, such refusals violate multiple federal laws, as the EO explains.
An EO is not a new law. Rather, it is a directive from the president instructing the executive branch on how to enforce existing law. This particular EO is primarily concerned with ensuring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) properly enforces three existing laws:
- The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires that every individual who comes to a hospital emergency department receive appropriate medical screening and stabilization or transfer.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prevents federal funding recipients from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.
- The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which clarifies that an infant “born alive at any stage of development” is a person under federal law.
Specifically, HHS must ensure:
- all federal funding recipients understand their obligations toward vulnerable children;
- all federal funding recipients provide medical screening examinations, stabilizing treatments, or transfers when needed;
- all federal funding recipients provide these services to all children, regardless of disability;
- violation complaints regarding medical care for newborns and infants are investigated;
- disability discrimination complaints can be filed on the HHS website; and
- research into treatments for infants born with emergency medical conditions and programs that train medical personnel to care for said infants are prioritized.
This EO clarifies medical protocols for infants born with disabilities or who survive abortion. However, the executive branch is limited to enforcing the laws that already exist. A legislative fix is necessary to provide true legal protections for infants who survive abortion. Since 2006, five states have reported at least 179 cases in which an infant has survived an abortion. Because not all states report this data, the 179 cases we do know about do not even begin to paint the full picture of the number of abortion survivors in the United States. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is a bill before Congress that would legally require medical professionals to give the same level of care to infants that survive abortion as they would to any infant born at the same gestational age, and include criminal and civil penalties for any physician that fails to give appropriate care to these infants.
Unfortunately, pro-abortion politicians have fallen victim to the abortion industry’s lies. They have halted every effort in Congress to denounce infanticide and provide full legal and medical protection for these innocent babies. Vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) voted against this life-saving measure twice, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has continuously blocked Republican efforts to have a House floor vote on the bill.
Congress has neglected its duty to ensure that the right to life is secured for all individuals born in America. President Trump has stepped in to fill the void left by Congress’ inaction by issuing this Executive Order, demonstrating this administration’s willingness to do what is necessary to protect the unborn, the disabled, and every infant who has survived the horror of abortion.
Connor Semelsberger, MPP is the Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.
Ruth Moreno is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on federal legislative affairs, with a concentration on pro-life issues.