The Corner

Clarifying Obama’s Vote On Born-Alive

Speaking to a group of conservatives this morning it became clear that there’s some confusion about (then-Illinois-state-senator) Obama’s opposition to the state version of the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA). Referencing Andy McCarthy’s post from last night, an NRO reader stated that Obama was not the only politician to oppose a ban on partial-birth abortion.

To be clear: BAIPA and the ban on partial-birth abortion (PBA) are two separate things.

PBA, also known as intact dilation and extraction, is a late-term abortion procedure. After inducing labor, the abortion provider typically turns the baby around (while still within the mother) and pulls the child’s leg(s) out, leaving the head in the uterus. The baby’s head is then pierced with a sharp implement, creating a cavity through which the brains are sucked out, causing the skull to collapse and making it easier for the baby to be pulled out. The procedure was banned by Congress in 2003, and the ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart. Obama was not in the U.S. Senate at the time, so did not cast a vote on the PBA ban. He has, however, expressed concerns about Carhart.

BAIPA (both the federal and Illinois state versions) on the other hand, was introduced to insure that babies who survive attempted abortions are provided the same medical care and sustenance as any other infant born alive. BAIPA was introduced after evidence was presented that babies born alive after unsuccessful abortions were simply discarded in utility closets without food, care, or medical treatment until they died.

As both Andy and I pointed out last night (and numerous times before), state senator Obama fought against the Illinois version of BAIPA that was identical in all material respects to the federal version. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama claimed that he voted against the Illinois BAIPA because it failed to contain a “neutrality clause” making it clear that the bill did not affect the right to an abortion. This is false. Documents obtained by National Right to Life show that the Illinois BAIPA did, in fact, contain a neutrality clause identical to the federal version.

As noted yesterday, not one U.S. senator voted against  BAIPA. Even NARAL didn’t oppose it. At the time of the vote, CNN reported that NARAL’s spokesman said the following:

We, in fact, did not oppose the bill. There is a clear legal difference between a fetus in utero versus a child that’s born. And when a child is born, they deserve every protection that the country can provide. (Emphasis added).

The logical import of Obama’s vote against BAIPA is that he disagrees, i.e., once a baby has been targeted for abortion it thereafter has no inherent right to the food, comfort, and medical care provided to other babies born alive. Indeed, during Illinois state senate deliberations on BAIPA, Obama stated that one of his objections was that the bill was “designed to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.” Apparently, once the decision to abort has been made, a child is doomed even if born alive.

Does President Obama maintain that, but for BAIPA, an abortion provider continues to retain dominion over babies he fails to abort for some unspecified time after birth? Would Obama permit the abandonment of any other class of babies, e.g., those born  with abnormalities? Precisely where does he draw the line?

As I pointed out yesterday, it’s tough to get to the left of NARAL on matters described as “reproductive rights.” And as Andy stated, given Obama’s track record on “reproductive rights,” no one should’ve been surprised about the issuance of the HHS mandate.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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