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U.S. House Majority Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise is leading the charge on a long-shot effort to force a vote on a measure that would punish doctors if they don’t try saving the lives of infants born after botched abortions.

The bill, dubbed the "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act," is unlikely to get the 218 signatures it needs to get to override the Democratic leadership's decision not to put it to a vote on the House floor.

All four of the other Republicans who represent Louisiana in the House — Reps. Ralph Abraham, Garret Graves, Clay Higgins and Mike Johnson — have signed Scalise’s petition, and Republican U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy both signed on as co-sponsors and supported the “born alive” legislation when it was vetted in the upper chamber.

“When I say that we need to bring this bill to the floor for a vote, the first thing that people say is, 'How is it legal in America to kill a baby after it's been born alive, outside the womb?'” Scalise said in a news conference this week announcing his plan to begin collecting signatures for his discharge petition. "It’s shocking. It’s shocking; it’s disgusting.”

Under the proposed law, which is authored by Missouri Congresswoman Ann Wagner, doctors who do not act to save the lives of infants that survive abortion attempts could face stiff fines and up to five years in prison.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has blocked a chamber vote on the measure, prompting Scalise's embrace of the rarely-successful "discharge petition" process. He has so far this week collected 197 of the signatures that he would need to bring it to the floor.

Because Scalise faces an up-hill battle getting enough Democrats to sign on, the discharge petition effort is widely viewed as political proxy fight between the chamber's new Democratic majority and Republicans hoping to rally support among conservative voters who oppose abortion rights.

Abortion rights advocates have called the legislation misleading and argued that it's based on a false presumption.

"This legislation is based on lies and a misinformation campaign, aimed at shaming women and criminalizing doctors for a practice that doesn't exist in medicine or reality," Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

But that hasn't slowed Scalise's push for a vote. He has pointed to two specific states — New York and Virginia — in promoting his petition drive. 

A recording circulated earlier this year of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat and pediatric neurologist, discussing late-term abortions and decisions that are made when a fetus is deemed incapable of living outside the womb, and New York legislators passed a new law supporting late-term abortions when a mother’s life is in danger.

"People say that it should be easy to get to 218 signatures. Frankly, it should be easy to get all 435 members of Congress to sign this, but it’s not. In fact, it’s going to be hard," Scalise said at the news conference. "We know it’s an uphill battle, but we don't come here to do the easy things."


Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.