Obama and Abortion Survivors: Clarifying the Record

Dr. Paul Kengor and Jarrett Skorup | Grove City College | Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama and Abortion Survivors: Clarifying the Record


August 25, 2008

We recently posted an article at National Review on the controversy over Barack Obama’s votes in the Illinois legislature on a statewide version of the federal Born Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA)—i.e., legislation requiring medical personnel to provide treatment to infants who unexpectedly survive abortion procedures. Our point was to clarify the record and to add a crucial “rest of the story” that is still being missed: how this legislation sailed right through the Illinois legislature once its primary obstacle—Barack Obama—left the Illinois Senate for the U.S. Senate. In both senates, Illinois and the United States, the born-alive legislation was passed unanimously, but only in the absence of Senator Barack Obama.  

This issue is really heating up now, as Obama addressed the subject two weekends ago in a question from CBN’s David Brody. A major witness now being featured on news shows is Jill Stanek, the nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, where babies were aborted and those that survived were left to die. We interviewed Stanek at length for our article.

Obama, hailed for being smooth and articulate, fumbles and bumbles when forced to answer these questions on human life. He is clearly uncomfortable on this terrain, sensing how badly his track record is now hurting him. Here’s the latest on this issue:

Speaking of Evangelicals, Catholics, and the National Right to Life Committee, David Brody noted to Obama that “they’re basically saying they felt like you misrepresented your position on that bill [the Illinois version of BAIPA].” Obama dove right in: “Let me clarify this right now … because they have not been telling the truth. And I hate to say that people are lying, but here’s a situation where folks are lying.”

Obama explained: “I have said repeatedly that I would have been completely in, fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported, which was to say that you should provide assistance to any infant that was born, even if it was as a consequence of an induced abortion. That was not the bill that was presented at the state level. What that bill also was doing was trying to undermine Roe vs. Wade…. So for people to suggest that I … [was] somehow in favor of withholding life-saving support from an infant born alive is ridiculous. It defies commonsense and it defies imagination, and for people to keep on pushing this is offensive and it’s an example of the kind of politics that we have to get beyond.”

Obama claimed that these “people” had “misrepresented my positions repeatedly, even after they know that they’re wrong. And that’s what’s been happening.”

So, what’s the answer here?

First off, the two bills, the federal BAIPA and the Illinois version, were in fact identical. We have read them. They differ only in the words “America” and “Illinois.”

To its credit, the Obama campaign quickly came forward the next day to concede that the two bills were identical, acknowledging that Obama had misrepresented his own position.

That said, what Obama stated is partly true, and here is where he and his campaign have dug in: Yes, he believed that the Illinois version of BAIPA would undermine Roe v. Wade. That is the reason why he opposed the legislation. He opposed the legislation not because he wanted to see abortion survivors slowly die on cold tables inside Illinois “hospitals,” like Christ Hospital, but because he feared that passing such legislation would undermine Roe v. Wade. The idea that Obama was motivated first and foremost to champion a form of infanticide, said his campaign yesterday, is “offensive and insulting.”

It was Obama’s concern over Roe v. Wade that was his driving motivation, as we noted in our National Review article. We quoted Pam Sutherland, the president of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, who defended Obama on this exact point, “The legislation was written to ban abortion, plain and simple. Senator Obama saw the legislation, when he was there, for what it was.”

Yet, this is a second mistake by Obama, and a more serious one: Quite the contrary, Obama did not see the legislation for what it was. All alone as the central obstacle blocking the legislation, Obama had fallen for the classic red herring by the abortion industry, which argues that practically any restriction on abortion, no matter how sensible and humane, will undermine Roe v. Wade.

Obama was wrong on that. The obvious proof is that the eventual passage of the legislation, at the state and national level, did not, cannot, and will not undermine Roe v. Wade. The most fanatical pro-choicers in the U.S. Senate, from Barbara Boxer to Hillary Clinton, understood that and thus voted in favor of BAIPA. Obama, however, failed to make the crucial distinction.

That does not mean that Obama is a monster who enjoys killing babies. No one is making that “offensive and insulting” claim. Yet, his actions rightly call into question his judgment, his experience, his decision-making, and his blind, often-destructive loyalty to the abortion movement. Obama and his campaign know that, and are thus extremely concerned with what he did on this literal life-death issue—an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon.


Paul Kengor is professor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Jarrett Skorup is a student fellow at the Center for Vision & Values.

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