Presidential Executive Order Protects Vulnerable Newborns
October 1, 2020
by Jonathan Imbody
A Presidential Executive Order (EO) signed on September 25, 2020 by President Trump recently mandated care for vulnerable newborns while highlighting the need to enforce protections to prevent the intentional neglect of babies born with significant challenges.
The EO provides, related to vulnerable newborns, a human rights declaration, a policy affirmation, a legal application and a funding directive:
- “Every infant born alive, no matter the circumstances of his or her birth, has the same dignity and the same rights as every other individual and is entitled to the same protections under Federal law.”
- “It is the policy of the United States to recognize the human dignity and inherent worth of every newborn or other infant child, regardless of prematurity or disability, and to ensure for each child due protection under the law.”
- “The Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) shall ensure that individuals responsible for all programs and activities under his jurisdiction that receive Federal funding are aware of their obligations toward infants, including premature infants or infants with disabilities, who have an emergency medical condition in need of stabilizing treatment….”
- “The Secretary shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, prioritize the allocation of Department of Health and Human Services discretionary grant funding and National Institutes of Health research dollars for programs and activities conducting research to develop treatments that may improve survival — especially survival without impairment — of infants born alive, including premature infants or infants with disabilities, who have an emergency medical condition in need of stabilizing treatment.”
The Executive Order draws authority from three laws:
- Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) – Every patient coming to a hospital emergency department must receive appropriate medical screening and stabilization or transfer.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act – Recipients of federal funding may not discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
- Born-Alive Infants Protection Act – An infant “born alive at any stage of development” is a person under federal law.
Limited by current law, the EO focuses on hospitals with emergency departments rather than on abortion clinics. Pending legislation, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would apply similar principles to abortion clinics.
The Christian Medical Association expressed support for the EO in a news release, excerpts of which follow:
Dr. Jeffrey Barrows, an OB/Gyn and CMA’s Senior Vice President for Bioethics and Public Policy, said, “This executive order is not only a legal tool to ensure that hospitals provide care for babies born alive; it is also an important affirmation of the aims of our medical profession, which are to respect life, to pursue healing and to never do harm.”
CMA’s Director of Federal Relations Jonathan Imbody noted, “While the executive branch can only reach as far as federal funding and existing law allows to protect babies born alive, Congress still has the opportunity to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This legislation simply requires that, when an abortion results in the live birth of an infant, healthcare professionals must exercise the same degree of professional skill and care to protect the newborn as would be offered to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”