A proposed amendment to a bill to protect the lives of children who survive attempted abortions is dividing the state’s two pro-life organizations. The amendment, proposed by Sen. André Jacque (R-DePere), is intended to also hold the mother accountable if she participates in terminating the child’s life after the failed abortion.

“My amendment would ensure that SB 175 avoids exempting the mother of a born-alive infant from prosecution for the death of the child for their actions AFTER the child is born, including directing an abortionist to ‘finish the job’ as Virginia Governor Northam and many other prominent Democrats would seem to support,” Jacque said in an email to RightWisconsin on Tuesday.

However, Heather Weininger, the executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, strongly disagrees with Jacque about the need for the amendment and does not support it.

“I want to be clear: Wisconsin Right to Life does not support Senator Jacque’s amendment. I personally spoke with him and told him we do not support this,” Weininger said in a statement Friday. “To say that if it was adopted the full pro-life movement could embrace saving babies born alive after failed abortions is a blatant lie.”

In an email to RightWisconsin, Weininger said the amendment wasn’t necessary to protect the child and does not shield the mother from charges of infanticide.

“If the bill needed to be amended, we would support amendments,” Weininger said. “However, the bill as written, does not in any way put in danger the ability to charge a mother if she participates in the killing of her born child from a failed abortion attempt.”

In the released statement opposing the amendment, Weininger went further in expressing concern about the amendment’s effect.

“During the public hearings (last) week, the rooms were filled with supporters, supporters that we work with closely on a regular basis,” Weininger said. “Their support was clear – they support allowing babies who are born alive to receive a specific standard of care and they support ensuring women are not prosecuted if their baby survives a failed abortion attempt. We always focus on ensuring the punishment is directed towards the abortionist who is killing the unborn child.”

Weininger also accused Jacque of intentionally misinforming supporters of the pro-life bill about the effect of the prosecution exemption for the mother.

“Senator Jacque is more interested in taking credit for a bill and using misinformation to gain support than focusing on the fact that Governor Evers has no interest in protecting babies born alive after failed abortions in Wisconsin,” Weininger said.

Jacque defended his proposed amendment saying it is similar to legislation that has passed elsewhere in the country.

“If WRTL is fine with ensuring present protections against infanticide are upheld and believes they are not adversely affected by the bill, but merely deem my amendment ‘unnecessary,’ what is the harm in passing it?” Jacque asked. “My amendment only provides more clarity for what that they say they are seeking, and they certainly haven’t advanced any argument for why it would be harmful.”

The senator also said that he cannot believe Wisconsin Right to Life does not support prosecution if the mother participates in killing the child if it survives an abortion attempt.

“Is WRTL actually saying that it intentionally does not and cannot support passage of a bill that would, as with current law, ensure that a mother could be prosecuted for infanticide or being a party to it, in situations where she herself would be killing her born-alive child (in the case of an incomplete self-abortion followed by smothering, abandonment or otherwise) or demanding the abortionist to kill the born-alive child?” Jacque asked. “I had not believed that to be the case and am chilled by the thought.”

According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, the The Born Alive Protection bill requires health care providers to do what they can to preserve the life of a child after a live birth following a failed abortion attempt. It also makes “intentionally causing the death of a child born alive as a result of an abortion or an attempted abortion a felony with a penalty of life imprisonment,” but the mother of the child, “may not be prosecuted under this provision in the bill.”

And that has the state’s other pro-life groups concerned. On Monday, Pro-Life Wisconsin Executive Director Matt Sande explained his organization’s support for the Jacque Amendment on the organization’s blog.

The problem with Section 2 is that it applies to anyone but the mother. It completely exempts from prosecution the mother of a child born alive after an abortion if she kills or conspires to kill her born alive child. This erodes the equal protection that babies born alive following failed abortions enjoy under current law. We want the Born Alive Protection Act to complement current law, not undermine it.

Although we acknowledge that a district attorney could use the current law homicide statute to prosecute a mother who kills her born alive child following a failed abortion, it is equally true that a zealous defense attorney could use the newly created immunity clause in Section 2 to fully exculpate her.

Julaine Appling, the president of Wisconsin Family Action, also submitted written testimony to the Assembly committee in favor of amending the proposed bill.

“We do not believe it is appropriate to give anyone immunity in a situation where a child born alive is intentionally killed, even if that child is born a live as a result of an abortion or attempted abortion,” Appling said last week. “This is a very different situation from providing the mother immunity from prosecution for having the abortion. In essence this provision in the bill actually allows for infanticide while rightly seeking to prevent infanticide.”

The bill is part of a group of pro-life bills to be considered Wednesday by the Assembly. Gov. Tony Evers, who once compared abortion to a tonsillectomy, is opposed to any legal restrictions on abortion and has said he will veto the bills if they pass in the legislature.

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