Rep. Kat Cammack co-sponsored the “Born Alive” abortion bill, a piece of legislation that has sparked controversy among lawmakers and activists alike.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed Bill H.R.26, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, with a 220-210 vote Jan. 11. Cammack, who represents the district that encompasses Alachua County and is a co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, announced the reintroduction of the bill along with House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) Jan. 9.
Incoming UF President and former U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse introduced the Born Alive legislation in 2015 and reintroduced it in January 2021. It passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 248 to 177, but failed to receive 60 votes to break a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
The bill proposes to ensure health care practitioners take proper care of a child who survives an attempted abortion. Practitioners who don’t follow the bill’s requirements could be subject to fines or up to five years in prison.
“This isn’t about pro-life versus pro-choice,” Cammack said. “This is about protecting those most vulnerable.”
In July, a Florida law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks with only a few exceptions went into effect. Prior to this, state law allowed abortions up to 24 weeks.
A premature infant has a chance of survival if born at 24 weeks, while most born before this cannot live because their vital organs aren’t developed enough, according to Hackensack Meridian Health.
During the House’s debate on the bill Jan. 11, Cammack spoke out in support of the bill.
Federal law currently recognizes children who survive attempted abortions as people, but it fails to outline any requirements after the infant is born. H.R.26 would rectify this, she said.
Cammack spoke about a woman who had an abortion procedure to terminate her 23-week pregnancy that led to the birth of an infant boy in Hialeah, Florida, in 2006. When the boy began to breathe and move after the abortion, the clinic owner reportedly cut the umbilical cord and zipped him into a biohazard bag where he died, she said.
In the case Cammack referenced, the child was actually a girl, according to NBC News.
The practitioner faced criminal charges for unauthorized practice of medicine resulting in serious bodily injury and tampering with evidence, but the charges were later dropped.
“In Florida alone, just last year eight babies were reported to have been born alive during an abortion attempt,” Cammack said.
In 2022, eight out of 68,217 abortions in Florida resulted in infants being born alive, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.
Along with Cammack, 12 other Florida representatives co-sponsored the bill.
Opponents believe the bill isn’t necessary because it’s already illegal to cause harm to an infant after birth.
Lily Kalandjian, a UF College Democrats spokesperson, is against the bill and thinks it’s only a maneuver from the Republicans after Roe v. Wade, she said.
“It's already considered homicide in the U.S.,” Kalandijan said. “So this just continues to further stigmatize abortion.”
To see Cammack, who represents Gainesville residents, support the bill is disappointing, she said.
“As people on a college campus with a lot of students who are passionate about reproductive rights, it's upsetting to see that our representative is not supporting us in what we believe in,” Kalandjian said.
Local college students such as Catarina Provenzano, a 21-year-old UF psychology junior, want more Florida representatives, such as Cammack, to advocate for abortion rights, she said.
“The more Florida representatives being pro-choice,” Provenzano said, “The more comfortable I feel living here.”
Local organizations like North Central Florida Indivisible are against Cammack’s position on the bill.
Director Jyoti Parmar was disappointed to hear that lawmakers are trying to take away women’s autonomy, she said.
“This effort is an attempt to intimidate medical providers from providing abortion care in late and catastrophic pregnancies,” Parmar said.
The Republican Party has had a practice of silencing and shaming women — including Republican women — who seek abortions, she said.
“Kat Cammack has a history and pattern of ignoring the voices of many of our constituents,” Parmar said.
Proponents of the bill believe it’s necessary to have these protections if an abortion is not properly carried out.
Lynda Bell, Florida Right to Life president, believes the bill would restore some dignity and protection to infants born alive after an abortion, and she is shocked that anybody could vote against the protection of an infant born alive, she said.
“It’s one thing to say that you're pro-abortion or you're pro-choice,” Bell said. “But it's another thing to say we don't even want to protect babies that are born alive.”
Bell and the organization believe Cammack is the future of the party and are proud she is co-sponsoring the bill, she said.
“We have some very powerful, strong pro-life Congresswomen in Congress, and we couldn't be any more pleased,” Bell said. “I think [Cammack’s] a great future of the party.”
Matt Turner, UF College Republicans president, said regardless of anyones’ views on abortion, any life should be afforded the same privileges as any other life.
“I think that there should be punishments if there's not a reasonable standard of care that's applied to a child that has been born,” Turner said.
UF College Republicans has a friendly relationship with Cammack and work with her often, he said.
“Cammack has a large hand in this bill,” Turner said. “So we're very much in favor of the bill.”
The bill will now move to the Senate, where Democrats have the majority.
Contact Claire at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @grunewaldclaire.
Claire Grunewald is a fourth-year journalism major and the Spring 2024 Editor In Chief of The Alligator. In her free time, she likes to go to concerts and attempt to meet her Goodreads reading goal.