Politics & Policy

Dead Weight

In 2003, Sen. Barack Obama voted, in the Illinois Senate Health Committee he chaired, to kill a bill that would have protected the lives of premature babies who were born alive during attempted abortions. The bill had first been presented after a Chicago-area hospital admitted that it was abandoning such babies to die without medical care. Obama saw similar bills three times; each time, he spoke or voted in opposition.

The premature babies who were being left to die — the 15 or 20 percent who typically survive induced-labor abortions to be born alive — could live without any care for as long as several hours after birth. The nurse who brought this to the public’s attention witnessed one of them being taken to a utility closet and left to die there. The hospital maintained that staffers put the dying babies into “comfort rooms” until they expired. Either way, they were being left to die without any attempt at medical care. Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, after asking the state’s health department to investigate (there was no criminal investigation), wrote a letter stating that his office could take no legal action regarding this practice.

#ad#The bill that Obama killed in 2003 was identical to the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), whose language had first passed the U.S. Senate in 2001. Not only did the federal bill pass 98-0, it received a ringing endorsement from abortion enthusiast Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.). Even NARAL declined to oppose it. Those facts should give some indication of just how extreme Senator Obama’s position is.

Lately Obama has tried to make his vote appear less radical. He has claimed he would have voted for the federal bill, because it contained language guaranteeing that it did not confer legal status to the unborn. (Such language was redundant; even without that proviso, the bill would have had no effect on the unborn, because it dealt explicitly with babies who had been delivered alive.) But Obama’s explanation is a cynical dodge. Last week, the National Right to Life Committee uncovered documents from the Illinois Senate showing that the bill Obama killed was identical to the federal legislation he claims to have supported.

Obama responded by smearing NRLC and those pointing out the truth, calling them “liars.” But on the following day, the weight of the documentary evidence forced Obama’s own campaign to admit that, indeed, the language of the federal and state bills were the same.

Instead of apologizing, Obama’s campaign is now calling his critics “liars” again, this time for allegedly saying he “supports infanticide.” True, it would be less inflammatory to say that Obama merely acquiesced to the continued practice of infanticide at Christ Hospital. But the language of his critics does not change the facts of his record.

Obama’s next line of defense is that laws already existed in Illinois to protect these babies. Not so: The law protected only “viable” infants. Hence the attorney general’s decision not to act against Christ Hospital. Obama’s argument is disingenuous as well as false. He opposed legal protection for all born-alive infants because he considered it a threat to Roe. Perhaps it is misleading to say that Obama supports infanticide. It is certainly accurate to say that it concerns him less than indirect, hypothetical threats to the abortion license.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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