There wasn’t any question about what was happening. The abortions were going wrong. The babies weren’t cooperating. They wouldn’t die as planned. Or, as Illinois state senator Barack Obama so touchingly put it, there was “movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead.”
No, Senator. They wouldn’t go along with the program. They wouldn’t just come out limp and dead.
They were coming out alive. Born alive. Babies. Vulnerable human beings Obama, in his detached pomposity, might otherwise include among “the least of my brothers.” But of course, an abortion extremist can’t very well be invoking Saint Matthew, can he? So, for Obama, the shunning of these least of our brothers and sisters — millions of them — is somehow not among America’s greatest moral failings.
No. In Obama’s hardball, hard-Left world, these least become “that fetus, or child — however you want to describe it.”
Most of us, of course, opt for “child,” particularly when the “it” is born and living and breathing and in need of our help. Particularly when the “it” is clinging not to guns or religion but to life.
But not Barack Obama. As an Illinois state senator, he voted to permit infanticide. And now, running for president, he banks on media adulation to insulate him from his past.
The record, however, doesn’t lie.
Infanticide is a bracing word. But in this context, it’s the only word that fits. Obama heard the testimony of a nurse, Jill Stanek. She recounted how she’d spent 45 minutes holding a living baby left to die.
The child had lacked the good grace to expire as planned in an induced-labor abortion — one in which an abortionist artificially induces labor with the expectation that the underdeveloped “fetus, or child — however you want to describe it” will not survive the delivery.
Stanek encountered another nurse carrying the child to a “soiled utility room” where it would be left to die. It wasn’t that unusual. The induced-labor method was used for late-term abortions. Many of the babies were strong enough to survive the delivery. At least for a time.
So something had to be done with them. They couldn’t be left out in the open, struggling in the presence of fellow human beings. After all, those fellow human beings — health-care providers — would then be forced to confront the inconvenient question of why they were standing idly by. That would hold a mirror up to the whole grisly business.
Better the utility room. Alone, out of sight and out of mind. Next case.
Stanek’s account enraged the public and shamed into silence most of the country’s staunchest pro-abortion activists. Most, not all. Not Barack Obama.
My friend Hadley Arkes ingeniously argued that legislatures, including Congress, should take up “Born Alive” legislation: laws making explicit what decency already made undeniable: that from the moment of birth — from the moment one is expelled or extracted alive from the birth canal — a human being is entitled to all the protections the law accords to living persons.
Such laws were enacted by overwhelming margins. In the United States Congress, even such pro-abortion activists as Sen. Barbara Boxer went along.
But not Barack Obama. In the Illinois senate, he opposed Born-Alive tooth and nail.
The shocking extremism of that position — giving infanticide the nod over compassion and life — is profoundly embarrassing to him now. So he has lied about what he did. He has offered various conflicting explanations, ranging from the assertion that he didn’t oppose the anti-infanticide legislation (he did), to the assertion that he opposed it because it didn’t contain a superfluous clause reaffirming abortion rights (it did), to the assertion that it was unnecessary because Illinois law already protected the children of botched abortions (it didn’t — and even if it arguably did, why oppose a clarification?).
What Obama hasn’t offered, however, is the rationalization he vigorously posited during the 2002 Illinois senate debate.
When it got down to brass tacks, Barack Obama argued that protecting abortion doctors from legal liability was more important than protecting living infants from death.
Don’t take my word for it. There’s a transcript of a state senate debate, which took place on April 4, 2002. That transcript is available here (the pertinent section runs from pages 31 to 34). I quote it extensively below (italics mine). After being recognized, Obama challenged the Born-Alive bill’s sponsor as follows:
OBAMA: Yeah. Just along the same lines. Obviously, this is an issue that we’ve debated extensively both in committee an on the floor so I — you know, I don’t want to belabor it. But I did want to point out, as I understood it, during the course of the discussion in committee, one of the things that we were concerned about, or at least I expressed some concern about, was what impact this would have with respect to the relationship between the doctor and the patient and what liabilities the doctor might have in this situation. So, can you just describe for me, under this legislation, what’s going to be required for a doctor to meet the requirements you’ve set forth?
SENATOR O’MALLEY: First of all, there is established, under this legislation, that a child born under such circumstances would receive all reasonable measures consistent with good medical practice, and that’s as defined, of course, by the … practice of medicine in the community where this would occur. It also requires, in two instances, that … an attending physician be brought in to assist and advise with respect to the issue of viability and, in particular, where … there’s a suspicion on behalf of the physician that the child … may be [viable,] … the attending physician would make that determination as to whether that would be the case…. The other one is where the child is actually born alive … in which case, then, the physician would call as soon as practically possible for a second physician to come in and determine the viability.
SENATOR OBAMA: So — and again, I’m — I’m not going to prolong this, but I just want to be clear because I think this was the source of the objections of the Medical Society. As I understand it, this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child — however way you want to describe it — is now outside the mother’s womb and the doctor continues to think that it’s nonviable but there’s, let’s say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead, that, in fact, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved. Is that correct?
SENATOR O’MALLEY: In the first instance, obviously the physician that is performing the procedure would make the determination. The second situation is where the child actually is born and is alive, and then there’s an assessment — an independent assessment of viability by … another physician at the soonest practical … time.
SENATOR OBAMA: Let me just go to the bill, very quickly. Essentially, I think as — as this emerged during debate and during committee, the only plausible rationale, to my mind, for this legislation would be if you had a suspicion that a doctor, the attending physician, who has made an assessment that this is a nonviable fetus and that, let’s say for the purpose of the mother’s health, is being — that — that — labor is being induced, that that physician (a) is going to make the wrong assessment and (b) if the physician discovered, after the labor had been induced, that, in fact, he made an error, or she made an error, and, in fact, that this was not a nonviable fetus but, in fact, a live child, that that physician, of his own accord or her own accord, would not try to exercise the sort of medical measures and practices that would be involved in saving that child. Now, it — if you think there are possibilities that doctors would not do that, then maybe this bill makes sense, but I — I suspect and my impression is, is that the Medical Society suspects as well that doctors feel that they would be under that obligation, that they would already be making these determinations and that, essentially, adding a — an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion. Now, if that’s the case — and — and I know that some of us feel very strongly one way or another on that issue — that’s fine, but I think it’s important to understand that this issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births. Because if these are children who are being born alive, I, at least, have confidence that a doctor who is in that room is going to make sure that they’re looked after.
This is staggering. As Obama spoke these words, he well knew that children were being born alive but precisely not looked after by the abortion doctors whose water the senator was carrying. As Stanek put it, as many as one in five — twenty percent — were left to die. That was what prompted the legislation in the first place.
Through Obama’s radical prism, everything “is about abortion and not live births.” But in reality, this had nothing to do with “burden[ing] the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.” It was about the legal and moral responsibilities of doctors and nurses in circumstances where, despite that decision, a living human being was delivered.
Obama wasn’t worried about “the least of my brothers,” the child. He agitated, instead, over “what liabilities the doctor might have in this situation.” And what kind of doctor? A charlatan who would somehow “continue to think that it’s nonviable” notwithstanding that “there’s, let’s say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead.”
Given the choice between the charlatan and “that fetus, or child — however you want to describe it,” Barack Obama went with the charlatan. The baby would end up limp and dead, whether in the operating room or the utility closet. It was, Obama insisted, about abortion, not live births.
– Andrew C. McCarthy is NR’s legal-affairs editor and the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad.