November 2020

On September 25, 2020, President Donald J. Trump issued the Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children. We encourage everyone to read this life-affirming Executive Order and share it with anyone facing denial of wanted treatment for their premature or disabled infant. The order’s full text is available for download here.

Section 1, after citing several relevant federal statutes, in part declares,

Together, these laws help protect infants born alive from discrimination in the provision of medical treatment, including infants who require emergency medical treatment, who are premature, or who are born with disabilities. Such infants are entitled to meaningful and non-discriminatory access to medical examination and services, with the consent of a parent or guardian, when they present at hospitals receiving Federal funds.

Despite these laws, some hospitals refuse the required medical screening examination and stabilizing treatment or otherwise do not provide potentially lifesaving medical treatment to extremely premature or disabled infants, even when parents plead for such treatment. 

Section 2 states,

It is the policy of the United States to recognize the human dignity and inherent worth of every newborn or other infant child, regardless of prematurity or disability, and to ensure for each child due protection under the law.

And Section 3 directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “ensure that individuals responsible for all programs and activities under his jurisdiction that receive Federal funding are aware of their obligations toward infants …” and to enforce this executive order.

HALO asked Mary Kellett, the president and founder of Prenatal Partners for Life (prenatalpartnersforlife.org), for her opinion regarding this Executive Order. She responded:

I think the order is a good thing. I especially like that it requires all federally funded hospitals to offer medical interventions for severely premature infants – including those “born alive before 24 weeks of gestation” – and to offer non-discriminatory access to medical care for newborns with severe disabilities.

Hospitals that have offered care to extreme preemies have seen good results, with many surviving. Families often face pressure not to treat when their children could be helped. This order hopefully will alleviate some of that pressure. Families can always refuse treatment, but this, again hopefully, will ensure it is at least offered. Right now, basic care that would be routinely done for other children is often denied to children who are severely premature or disabled.

If a baby is actively dying, then comfort care is appropriate. Many times, that is not the case in kids like Peter. [Mary’s son Peter had Trisomy 18.]  He would have died if they would have wrapped him up in a blanket and we would have just held him [as Peter’s doctors advised Mary to do]. He needed extra help in the beginning like many babies with these conditions. I hope this order will help the babies get the care they need to reach their full potential. *

*Read “Lies Have No Place in Medicine” by Mary Kellett in the January 2020 edition of the HALO Herald.

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