On Friday, President Trump signed the "Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children," directing the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that federally funded hospitals administer life-saving treatment and care to survivors of abortion.
Trump announced that he would take action in a pre-recorded address at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday. He promised, "to ensure that all precious babies born alive, no matter their circumstances, receive the medical care that they deserve." The announcement quickly garnered praise from the pro-life community.
Trump said that to protect life "is our sacrosanct moral duty" and also that he will increase federal funding for neonatal research "to ensure that every child has the very best chance to thrive and to grow."
In a statement released on Friday, Secretary of HHS Alex Azar called the order "another step by the most pro-life President in American history and ensures that we provide the same protections for innocent infants who are born premature or with disabilities that we provide for every other American." The HHS statement, as well as the White House's release on Friday, provides an outline of actions that the Secretary will be directed to carry out.
The Executive Order aims "to ensure that American hospitals comply with their obligations under federal law to provide appropriate screening and medical treatment or transfer for infants, especially those born prematurely and/or with disabilities, and otherwise promote efforts to improve the survival of such infants."
Critics of the order from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-choice America claimed that Trump was targeting a nonexistent problem to appeal to pro-life voters. NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said that Trump was "exploiting disinformation about these devastating circumstances to score cheap political points" in a statement online.
The Born Alive Infant Protection Act was signed by President George W. Bush in his first term, stating that infants born at any stage must receive the same protection as others. Trump's order applies that law and EMTALA, which mandates emergency medical care, to evaluate whether federally-funded programs are in compliance.
The executive order argues: "Despite these laws some hospitals refuse the required medical screening examination and stabilizing treatment or otherwise do not provide potentially life-saving medical treatment to extremely premature or disabled infants, even when parents plead for such treatment...active treatment of extremely premature infants has, however, been shown to improve their survival rates."
The executive order drew plenty of praise from pro-life groups, especially after House Democrats blocked the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Act earlier this year that would have levied penalties to doctors who refuse to provide life-saving care.
"President Trump's executive order protects the youngest of patients and ensures that their right to life is defended to the greatest extent of the law," Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, told The Christian Post. "We thank President Trump for his dedication to the right to life and for working to protect all innocent human life. He is a champion for the most vulnerable among us and committed to guarding the right to life of all babies-born and unborn."
Leonard Leo, president of the NCPB board of directors who introduced Trump on Wednesday, praised the president's dedication to the values of the Church.
"There is a longstanding tradition of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast to invite and host presidents of the United States who embrace the Catholic Church's teachings on the sanctity of human life. President Donald Trump has fiercely defended the culture of life in this way more than any other president in my own lifetime," Leo said.
"He's done so much more to embrace policies that reflect the morals, teachings and objectives of our faith. He has breathed new life into the First Amendment's guarantees of religious liberty by protecting the conscience rights of healthcare professionals, ending discrimination against believers of all backgrounds when it comes to education, and fighting back against the movement to remove religious symbols from public spaces."
"President Trump has recognized the principle of equal opportunity and justice by pressing for educational choice and reform that would benefit the least fortunate in our society. And through his efforts at judicial selection, President Trump has helped secure human dignity by appointing jurists who bolster the rule of law by enforcing constitutional limits on the power of the state," he said.
In his announcement on Wednesday, Trump also highlighted the integral contributions of Catholics and "all people of faith" to the success of America as a whole.
"I grew up next to a Catholic church in Queens, New York, and I saw how much incredible work the Catholic Church did for our community. These are amazing people. These are great, great people. Catholic schools give many underserved children the chance to reach their God-given potential. Catholics of all backgrounds share the love of Christ with the most vulnerable as they care for the elderly, the homeless and neighbors in need," Trump described.
"Our nation is strong because of Catholics and all people of faith. We believe in the joy of family, the blessing of freedom and the dignity of work and the eternal truth that every child born and unborn, is made the holy image of God. I will always protect the vital role of religion and prayer in American society and I will always defend the sacred right to life," Trump added.
Trump quoted Saint John Paul II in the address, telling people of faith: "let the good news of Christ radiate from your hearts and the peace that he alone gives remain forever in your soul. Trump concluded by thanking Catholics, saying "we are very grateful Catholicsillions of catholics across America who live by these beautiful words and bring hope and joy and light and grace to the world."