Obama and Infanticide
The media still insist on defending his votes in favor of infanticide.

Screen shot of an ad featuring abortion survivor Melissa Ohden


Ramesh Ponnuru

During Obama’s presidential campaign, pro-lifers argued that so extreme was his devotion to abortion that he was willing to support a right to infanticide. This charge is absolutely true. He believed that certain infants — those at an early stage of development — should not have legal protection, and he believed it because he thought it would undermine the right to abortion.

Here’s what the Washington Post’s Josh Hicks makes of all this in “fact-checking” an anti-Obama ad by Susan B. Anthony List. Hicks quotes the same Obama remarks I did (“Number one, when . . . ”) and writes:

Notice that Obama referred to “previable fetuses,” or those that do not have a reasonable chance of survival outside the mother’s body. Obama’s primary concern seems to be that the born-alive act would prohibit aborting a fetus still inside the womb.

Critics contend that this interpretation is not necessarily true because some previable fetuses survive after delivery from an unsuccessful abortion. They argue that Obama essentially opposed protecting the survivors.

Hicks is misinterpreting Obama. He never said he worried that the law would apply inside the womb, and he still opposed the bill when it added language clarifying that it wouldn’t. At no point does he suggest that it would be okay to provide legal protection to pre-viable infants who survive abortions. That’s because he opposed such protection.

A speaker in the ad Hicks is considering, Melissa Ohden, says that Obama “voted to deny basic Constitutional protections for babies born alive from an abortion.” Hicks writes, “This is true in the sense that the Illinois bills would have guaranteed certain protections for these infants. But Ohden’s claim lacks context: Obama’s objections to the bill suggest that he wasn’t so much bent on denying rights to newborns as wanting to block any legislation that could erode the premise of the Roe v. Wade decision.” He then awards Ohden “one Pinocchio for her slanted take on the president’s position.”

What Ohden said was true in the sense of being true, and Hicks’s criticism is irrelevant. Yes, Obama thought that legislation offering protection for pre-viable infants would in principle erode Roe’s premise, and that’s why he opposed giving them any protection. In other words: Just as pro-lifers have long maintained, his devotion to abortion was so extreme that he thought a form of infanticide should remain legal.

Hicks continues:

[Mike] Huckabee said Obama “believes that human life is disposable and expendable . . . even beyond the womb.” But this is a mischaracterization of the president’s stance on the Born-Alive Infants Protection legislation in Illinois.

Granted, we don’t know why Obama voted against the 2003 bill that included a clause to protect abortion rights. The measure never made it out of committee, and comments from the meetings are not recorded. Nonetheless, we find it hard to fathom that the former senator expressed a belief that human life is disposable outside the womb.

Huckabee earns Three Pinocchios for his twisted interpretation of Obama’s no votes.

Huckabee was right: Obama did believe that at least some human lives, “even beyond the womb,” are “disposable and expendable.” He believed that for the law to treat them otherwise would be wrong. Whatever Hicks can or cannot fathom, Obama expressed that view both in his words and in his votes.

Hicks deserves credit, however, for noting that Obama has made false statements about his record on this issue. He even says that if he were grading his 2008 comments today, he would give him four Pinocchios. That’s an improvement over the Post’s performance in 2008, when it was the worst of a bad lot of “fact-checkers.” Perhaps when Obama’s third memoir comes out, the Post will finally be ready to admit that Obama supported a right to infanticide for pre-viable infants, and pro-lifers had it right all along.

— Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor of National Review.