WASHINGTON – The GOP-led House on Wednesday passed a bill that would require doctors and other medical professions to provide care to infants who survive abortions.

The bill, which passed 220-210, is one of two anti-abortion measures that the House took up on Wednesday though neither is likely to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Opponents said the legislation is not necessary and could interfere with doctors’ medical judgment. 

“The bill does nothing new to protect infants,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said. “The bill, however, is not harmless. Rather, if enacted, it could place the lives and health of newborn infants at risk.”

H.R. 26, which was named the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, was introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.). It would penalize health care providers who don’t treat infants who survived an abortion attempt with the same “professional skill, care, and diligence” they would treat newborn babies.

Health care professionals who fail to comply could face a fine and up to five years in jail.

The bill’s supporters said this legislation will guarantee all infants appropriate medical care. But such rights are already protected by the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002. Versions of today’s bill were also introduced in 2019 and 2021, but did not make it through the Senate.

The chance of a fetus surviving an abortion attempt is exceedingly rare. This is most likely to occur in the third trimester of one’s pregnancy — in these cases, abortion is usually due to extreme medical risks to the parent or fetus

Conservatives and anti-abortion factions in the House hoped to make a political statement with passage of the bill, although public opinion is generally in favor of abortion rights, especially after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. 

Some in the GOP, like Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), have called on the party to take a more cautious approach.

“This is an issue that I want to see us take seriously,” Mace said in an interview on Wednesday on MSNBC. “And if we’re going to be serious about balancing the rights of women and protecting the right to life, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, this is probably not the way to start off the week.”

Wagner contended the latest legislation “has nothing to do” with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. She said the bill does not affect a state’s ability to implement abortion laws.

“That’s it, plain and simple,” Wagner said. “I implore my Democratic colleagues to put aside politics and stand in support of life-saving care for these innocent newborns.”

During the debate on the floor of the House, Democratic legislators said that the bill could prevent parents from holding their babies after delivery, instead requiring them to be rushed to to receive treatments that would be unlikely to save their lives. 

“This legislation will deny parents a say in how their child spends the final minutes, hours or days of his or her life: whether hooked up to a medical device or in the arms of his parents,” Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) said. 

A number of Democratic congresswomen wore white during the vote on Wednesday afternoon, a symbol of solidarity for women’s rights. H.R. 26 was argued alongside H.C.R. 3, a resolution condemning attacks on pro-life facilities, groups and churches. Neither measure had widespread Democratic support.

Reproductive rights organizations have been publicly condemning measures trying to curb abortion access. NARAL Pro-Choice America characterized H.R. 26 as a bill “that would allow politicians to interfere in personal family decisions.”

“House Republicans are patently rejecting the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans who voted to support legal abortion in November,” The organization’s president Mini Timmaraju said in a statement. “The American people are watching this fight, and the contrast with their GOP colleagues is damning.”