Politics & Policy

Fathering More Lies

Obama's latest spin on Born-Alive.

Bereft of an argument, the Obama campaign is pounding the table.

The recent attacks on Senator Obama that allege he would allow babies born alive to die are outrageous lies. The suggestion that Obama — the proud father of two little girls — and others who opposed these bills supported infanticide is deeply offensive and insulting.* There is no room for these kinds of distortions and lies in this campaign.

Note, first, that Obama’s comment about lies over the weekend referred to the National Right to Life Committee. Yet the campaign has not made a single specific allegation that any of the NRLC’s statements are inaccurate, let alone dishonest. The campaign claims only that the NRLC has left out some context that exonerates Obama.

The main supposed omission:What Senator Obama’s attackers don’t tell you is that existing Illinois law already requires doctors to provide medical care in the very rare case that babies are born alive during abortions.” The reason the NRLC didn’t include that information is that it is incorrect. Illinois law has rules — loophole-ridden rules, but rules — requiring treatment of babies who have “sustainable survivability.” If an attempted abortion of a pre-viable fetus results in a live birth, the law did not protect the infant. Nurse Jill Stanek said that at her hospital “abortions” were repeatedly performed by inducing the live birth of a pre-viable fetus and then leaving it to die. When she made her report, the attorney general said that no law had been broken. That’s why legislators proposed a bill to fill the gap.

Obama did not want the gap filled. He did not want pre-viable fetuses/infants to have any legal protection. In the Illinois legislature, he argued that providing them with legal protection would both be unconstitutional in itself — a violation of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence — and undermine the right to abortion.

Obama was wrong about these points. The Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence treats the location of the young human organism, not its stage of development, as the key factor in whether it can be legally protected. But that’s the ground on which he stood, at the time. In recent years, however, he has had very little to say about the importance of denying legal protection to this class of human beings. He knows that’s a losing argument politically. So he has instead been emitting a thick cloud of smoke.

Only yesterday has the Obama campaign finally, in desperation, gotten close to telling the truth about Obama’s position. In its latest apologia, the campaign isolates the language it found so objectionable in the Illinois bill. “A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.” The campaign calls this “Language Clearly Threatening Roe.”

So far, only the conservative blogosphere has been calling Obama on his misrepresentations of his record on the Born-Alive Bill, and on his reckless accusations against his critics. Reporters should stop carrying his water. As for his defenders in the liberal blogosphere, if they want to take up for him again I would advise them to wait a while. The campaign doesn’t yet have its story straight, and it has no room for the truth.

*Incidentally, as a logical matter it makes no sense to say that because Obama is a “proud father” of former infants he therefore could not have supported a legal right to commit infanticide. Those daughters are also, after all, former fetuses.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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