Understanding the Born Alive Infants Protection Act

Born Alive Infants Protection Act

On August 5, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act into law.

What Is the Born Alive Infants Protection Act?

Those for and against abortion rights continue to debate a woman's right to choose to carry out a pregnancy. This act provides for full constitutional rights to any baby that has been born alive. This ensures that a baby who is born alive will receive medical attention as needed. The significance of this act is its impact on abortion. An infant who survives an abortion attempt and is born alive will have full protection under the United States Constitution. Any other attempt on his or her life is considered an attempt of murder.

Ethics and the Law

The issue of abortion has been a controversial and sometimes dangerous one. In centuries past, women who were desperate to rid themselves of an unwanted pregnancy often resorted to dangerous and illegal abortions. In an attempt to combat this problem and as an answer to cries of outrage from many abortion proponents, some states began legalizing abortion in the 1960s. However, most of these legalized abortions were only granted under specific circumstances, such as risk to a woman's health or physical and/or mental impairment of the child.

Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision in 1973, when the Supreme Court stated that criminalized abortion infringes on a woman's constitutional rights to privacy. This decision was the basis for determining that a woman does indeed have a right to terminate her pregnancy. However, guidelines were implemented regarding this process.

Determining Trimesters

The trimesters of a pregnancy are used to determine whether a woman has a legal right to abort her fetus. In most cases, a woman has the right to abort a pregnancy during the first trimester, or the first three months of her pregnancy. Once she has entered the second month, however, abortions may be regulated, although the health of the mother can be a determining factor in the decision to terminate a pregnancy.

The Supreme Court ruled that during the final trimester of a pregnancy, a fetus could live independently of the mother. A child born during this time, regardless of the circumstances, deserves protection according to the U. S. Constitution. This is the basis of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Because of this, states may ban abortions during the final three months of a pregnancy. Exceptions to this decision would include risks to the mother's health.


The implications of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act are many. The definition of words such as "person" or "individual" has been extended to include "every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development." To be more specific, the statue refers to the words "born alive" as "the complete expulsion or extraction (of an infant) from his or her mother ... at any stage of development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion."

Landmark cases continue to interpret this act in a variety of ways. For example, in Commonwealth v Cass, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts held that the stillbirth of an eight month old fetus was vehicular homicide because the mother was injured by a motorist and the infant was viable at the time of death.

Because of this and other landmark cases, many legislatures have revised their statutes regarding this law. In many cases, these revisions directly include deaths and injuries to fetuses in utero. In others, separate offenses have been cited, such as vehicular homicide or death to an unborn child. The statute continues to be challenged, however, particularly because of advances in medical science.

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Understanding the Born Alive Infants Protection Act