Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Health and Human Services Pledges Thorough Enforcement of Born-Alive Act

CULTURE & COSMOS, April 26, 2005 Volume 2, Number 38

The US federal department charged with enforcing the Born-Alive Infant
Protection Act, a statute making it illegal for babies who survive
abortions to be left to die, has taken steps to ensure the law is enforced
by committing itself to closely investigating possible violations and
educating medical providers of their obligations under the statute. In an
April 22 statement, Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services
(HHS), said his department had notified "relevant entities that we
aggressively enforce federal laws that protect born-alive infants." He
also said the agency would "take proactive steps to educate state
officials, health care providers, hospitals and child protection agencies
about their obligations to born-alive infants under federal law."

Under the Born-Alive Act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support
in Congress and signed into law by President Bush in August 2002, when
terms "individual," "person," "human being," or "child" are used in law
they must be defined to include any infant who is born alive, at any stage
of development. An infant is considered alive, according to the Act, if he
or she "has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite
movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord
has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs
as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced
abortion."

HHS issued a three-page memo to state agencies in charge of enforcing
and investigating child abuse making it clear that violations of the
Born-Alive Act fall under their purview to investigate. The memo states
that all references to "child" or "children" used in the Child Abuse
Prevention and Treatment Act, the law that governs the state agencies,
must be "read to include infants who are 'born-alive' as that term is
defined" in the Born-Alive Act. The memo also notes that states must make
sure that "procedures for responding to reports of medical neglect
(including the withholding of medically indicated treatment from disabled
infants with life-threatening conditions), applies to born-alive infants."

A separate memo, issued by the HHS Center for Medicare and Medicaid
Services, said that laws requiring medical facilities to provide emergency
medical service to all individuals were to be applied to infants who
survive abortion. The cost for failing to comply could be as high as
$50,000 per violation or $25,000 per violation in the case of a hospital
with less than 100 beds. Violating hospitals also put their Medicare
provider agreements at risk. A physician can also face a penalty of
$50,000 per violation and be excluded from the Medicare and Medicaid
programs.

The news comes as a relief to pro-life groups who worked for passage of
the Born-Alive Act. According to one senior Congressional staffer, many
pro-life organizations had "been concerned that since the Born-Alive
Infant Protection Act became law in 2002 that some clinics and hospitals
where ignoring its requirements." Particularly encouraging was the strong
language used by Leavitt when he announced that HHS would be stringently
enforcing the law. "The Act reaffirms the legal principle that all infants
born alive are entitled to the full protection of the law. That is a
principle I will vigorously uphold as Secretary. . . . Ours is a society
that values and defends life. The Department of Health and Human Services
will continue to seek ways to revere and protect the dignity of life."

Copyright 2005---Culture of Life Foundation. Permission granted for
unlimited use. Credit required.

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