Why are media so blatantly deceptive about Senate Bill 359?

Senate Bill 359 would make the following changes to North Carolina law (as explained by staff for the nonpartisan Legislative Analysis Division):

  • Require a healthcare practitioner to care for a child born alive despite an abortion.

  • Create a Class D felony with a fine of up to $250,000 for violation of a healthcare practitioner’s duty to provide care to a child born alive despite an abortion.

  • Require certain people to report a healthcare practitioner who does not care for a child born alive.

  • Create a Class D felony with a fine of up to $250,000 for violation of the requirement to report a healthcare practitioner’s failure to provide care to a child despite an abortion.

  • Bar prosecution of a mother for not providing medical care or reporting a lack of medical care for a child born alive despite an abortion.

  • Create a civil claim for a woman whose child was born alive despite an abortion and the healthcare provider failed to provide care, and if care was not provided and it was not reported by someone required to report. …

  • amend the existing murder statute to include “an intentional, overt act performed after the child is born alive”.

Specifically, then, the bill concerns infants born alive during an attempt at abortion. State law is inconclusive as to the physician’s duty at that point. Even though the infant was supposed to be dead, she was born alive, so the physician nor anyone else may directly cause her to die. That’s obviously a crime.

But there’s a loophole in state law, and that’s what Senate Bill 359 seeks to address. As the staff for the Legislative Analysis Division pointed out,

There are currently no laws requiring an affirmative duty of care to preserve the life of infants who survive attempted abortions.

The bill would close the loophole by requiring an affirmative duty of care to preserve the life of infants, regardless of the circumstances in which they were born.

What the bill would not do

The bill would make no change to Article 11, “Abortion and Kindred Offenses,” of General Statutes Chapter 14 on Criminal Law. Specifically, it would make no change to G.S. 14-45.1, which is the section of state laws pertaining to “When abortion is not unlawful.”

To be clear, Senate Bill 359 would not affect the legality of abortion in North Carolina in any way.

So why do media and opponents refer to it as an “anti-abortion bill,” “abortion bill,” a “new restriction against abortion,” etc.?

Nothing in the bill would do what local media insist the bill would do — so what are they talking about?

WRAL carried an article from Laura Leslie May 17 entitled “NC may soon join growing list of states enacting new abortion restrictions.” What “new abortion restriction” could North Carolina soon enact? That opening paragraphs leave no doubt:

Abortion has been the social conservative issue of the year in legislatures nationwide, and North Carolina could join that movement soon.

The House may hold a vote Monday night to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 359, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The bill would make it a felony for a doctor not to provide care for an infant born after a botched abortion, and it creates a duty for other health care professionals to report any such failure to act.

Is it an abortion restriction to close the loophole in state law that would ensure medical care to infants born alive? Really? Is it just because they were supposed to have died before they could be legally considered alive?

The News & Observer carried an article by Paul A. Specht May 15 entitled “As abortion bills advance nationwide, where does NC’s ‘born alive’ bill stand?” Well, first off, does the N&O think the “born alive” bill stands with “abortion bills”? The opening paragraphs leave no doubt:

As anti-abortion legislation is advancing across the country, a related bill is stalled in North Carolina.

Alabama on Tuesday was the latest of several states this year to advance new abortion legislation. Alabama’s bill, when it takes effect in six months, would make performing an abortion a felony at any stage of pregnancy, with almost no exceptions. Sixteen states have passed bans or are considering bans on abortion at about six weeks, the Washington Post has reported.

Senate Bill 359 is “related” to “anti-abortion legislation advancing across the country”? Related how? Having the word “abortion” in the text?

A question

Senate Bill 359 would

  • make no change to abortion law
  • ensure that infants born alive receive proper medical care regardless of how they were born

With what possible justification can that be described in news reports (i.e., not even opinion pieces) as “anti-abortion” and “restricting abortion”?

The only change it makes is to close a loophole to ensure infants already born are medically given every chance to live.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...