South Dakota passes law requiring doctors to help babies born alive after abortion

Premature baby
Premature baby | Getty Images

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has signed into law a bill that requires abortion providers to provide care for any baby that survives an abortion.

Known as House Bill 1051, Noem signed the legislation on Wednesday, which passed both houses of the state Legislature with overwhelming support.

“The pro-life cause continues even after a child is born, and this bill will guarantee the right to life for every baby that is born alive,” stated Noem on Wednesday.

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“We expect doctors to treat all children equally, even those born in horrific circumstances. That’s basic human decency.”

Also known as “An Act to maintain the life of any child born alive,” HB 1051 states that the “same means and medical skills and treatment provided” to a child born during a delivery “must be employed and provided to every child born alive immediately following an abortion or an attempted abortion.”

“This obligation applies to every physician who performs or attempts to perform an abortion that results in a child being born alive,” continued the legislation.

“Such physician has a physician-patient relationship with that child under the laws of this state, with all of the duties that attend that relationship.”

Introduced in January, HB 1051 passed the state House of Representatives in a vote of 59 to 8 and then passed the state Senate earlier this month in a vote of 32 to 3.

Critics of the legislation included the South Dakota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the bill placed “politicians between a person and their doctor.”

“If this bill becomes law, obstetricians and pediatricians would be forced to deviate from their best medical judgment and administer futile and painful treatment against the wishes of the parents, under the threat of civil litigation,” stated the ACLU.

“Numerous health care organizations, representing thousands of clinicians, oppose these bills including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.”

Several state and federal legislators have recently sought to pass laws clarifying that medical providers must give proper medical treatment to babies who survive an abortion.

These efforts came in response to a controversial 2019 interview that pro-choice Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gave to WTOP News, in which he appeared to endorse infanticide.

When discussing third-trimester abortions in an interview with WTOP, Northam gave the hypothetical example of a baby born with “severe deformities” or is not viable.

“In this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable,” said Northam to WTOP.

“It would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”

Last month, Kentucky had a similar born-alive protection law take effect when Gov. Andy Beshear refused to either sign or veto the legislation in question.

“I’m disappointed he didn’t sign it, but I’m grateful he didn’t veto it,” state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, sponsor of the legislation, told, adding, “I’ll take what I can get.”

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