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ACLJ Warns Proposed Maryland Senate Bill 'Could Legalize Infanticide Up to 28 Days After Birth'

03-08-2022

In preparation for a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, Maryland is the latest state trying to enshrine abortion access into its state constitution. 

Two bills before the state legislature aim to do just that. House Bill 1171 titled "Declaration of Rights – Right to Reproductive Liberty" is a proposed amendment to the Maryland Constitution that would "establish that every person, as a central component of the individual's rights to liberty and equality, has the fundamental right to reproductive liberty; prohibiting the State from directly or indirectly denying, burdening, or abridging the right unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means."

If passed by the legislature, Marylanders would vote on the proposed amendment in the general election this November. 

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The other bill is called Senate Bill 669, or the "Pregnant Person's Freedom Act of 2022".

It is summarized as: "FOR the purpose of altering certain provisions of law relating to the termination of a pregnancy and investigations of or criminal penalties or civil liabilities for a pregnant person or a person assisting a pregnant person; prohibiting a certain provision of law that requires the termination of a pregnancy by a licensed physician from being construed to apply to a certain pregnant person; and generally relating to the termination of pregnancy."

The bill reiterates current state law depriving unborn persons of all rights. 

"Nothing in this section shall be construed to confer personhood or any rights on the fetus," the bill reads

Pro-life advocates warn that under this bill, a baby who survived an abortion could just be left to die without care. But then the measure reportedly goes one step further. No type of legal investigation would be permitted or any type of penalty be applied to anyone involved in leaving a baby to die. 

The American Center for Law and Justice ACLJ) is sounding a warning on both of the Maryland bills, especially Senate Bill 669, which the nonprofit constitutional and religious rights law firm said could "effectively legalize infanticide."

In a blog post, ACLJ Associate Counsel Olivia Summers explained, "The bill also proposes a revision of the fetal murder/manslaughter statute that would serve to handcuff the investigation of infant deaths unrelated to abortion. In other words – this bill will effectively legalize infanticide."

The language of the proposed bill states, "This section may not be construed to authorize any form of investigation or penalty for a person . . . experiencing a . . . perinatal death related to a failure to act." 

"In other words, a baby born alive and well could be abandoned and left to starve or freeze to death, and nothing could be done to punish those who participated in that cruel death," Summers noted. "The bill also includes a section that would allow 'a person {to} bring a cause of action for damages if the person was subject to unlawful arrest or criminal investigation for a violation of this section as a result of . . . experiencing a . . . perinatal death.'"

Summers also pointed out under this proposed law, if a baby was abandoned and died, and the police investigated and apprehended the person responsible, the mother could sue the police and be awarded compensation for being investigated and arrested. 

The ACLJ associate counsel also cautioned since the bill's language is not clearly defined, the measure "could prevent any investigations into the death of infants at least seven days AFTER their birth, and may extend to infants as old as four weeks!"

"There is no clear definition of the term 'perinatal' in the Maryland Code," Summers explains. "Note the term used in the legislation is 'perinatal,' not prenatal. Prenatal naturally means 'before' birth. The medical definition of 'perinatal' is vastly different: 'The perinatal period is defined in diverse ways. Depending on the definition, it starts at the 20th to 28th week of gestation and ends 1 to 4 weeks after birth.'"

Maryland already has its own "safe haven" law. The law prevents any person who leaves an unharmed newborn not more than 10 days old with a responsible adult and then does not return for the baby cannot be found civilly liable or criminally prosecuted.

"There is absolutely no reason for Maryland Senate Bill 669's attempt to prevent someone who lets their baby die from being investigated. This bill just further exposes the complete lack of regard abortion advocates have for innocent human life," she wrote. "If they truly want to protect life and women, then legislators could simply extend the length of the safe harbor provision already in place. But that's clearly not the goal."

The pro-life organization Maryland Right to Life also noted on their website that the bill could legally protect sexual abusers and sex traffickers who could force women to have an abortion. 

"This bill provides legal protection for individuals who may coerce women into abortion, including sexual abusers and sex traffickers. The bill binds the hands of the state and bars law enforcement officials from investigating or prosecuting sexual abusers, sex traffickers, and empowers sexual predators to continue to abuse their victims."

Writing for The National Review, Wesley J. Smith cautioned that such bills would lead to allowing "lethal injections" on newborns left to die. 

"Based on the current advocacy trajectory, such proposals will eventually extend to permitting active infanticide, which is already promoted as legitimate morally by many in mainstream bioethics, and which currently is permitted in the Netherlands upon terminally ill babies and those born with serious disabilities," Smith wrote. "After all, once the law permits death by neglect, allowing lethal injections would be seen as more 'humane' than the extended suffering that would otherwise be caused."

The ACLJ is scheduled to present written testimony on March 15 opposing Maryland Senate Bill 669.  You can sign the ACLJ petition to let Maryland lawmakers know what you think about their agenda. 

If you live in Maryland, you can also call your state senator about Senate Bill 669. 

Have you have had an abortion, are contemplating ending your pregnancy, or would like pregnancy-related resources, please click here.

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