AUSTIN, Texas — House Bill 16, the Texas Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, passed the Texas House on Thursday 84-57 with two present not voting, and now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
The bill imposes criminal penalties on doctors who fail to treat babies born alive after failed abortion attempts – extremely rare cases.
The House on Thursday concurred with the Texas Senate’s minor changes to pass the bill. The Senate approved the measure last week in a 21-10 vote, with Democratic state senators Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo bucking their party to support the measure.
The measure, authored by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, gives teeth to existing federal and state laws that grant legal protections to children born after abortion attempts. Doctors who “fail to provide the appropriate medical treatment” – like immediately transferring the infant to a hospital — could be charged with a third-degree felony, and they would have to pay a fine of at least $100,000.
“We are thankful that this important piece of legislation is on its way to the governor’s desk,” said Republican Party of Texas chairman James Dickey.
“We applaud Representative Jeff Leach and all of our Republican legislators for accomplishing legislation that protects those who cannot protect themselves.”
But such cases are extremely rare. Texas reported zero live births resulting from abortions between 2013 and 2016 according to data from the Department of State Health Services.
“We don’t have any evidence that it’s necessary,” state Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, told the Texas Tribune earlier this month. “Its purpose is to interfere with the legitimate practice of a profession and the constitutional right of people.”
The Alabama House recently passed a similar bill, in which doctors could face 20 years in prison for not providing reasonable care to save a child born alive after an attempted abortion. The Democratic governors of two other states — North Carolina and Montana — have vetoed "born alive" bills in the last month.
The U.S. Senate rejected a national version of the bill earlier this year, which prompted the state-level response in Texas and other states.
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