NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Abortion may not be the top issue during the 2008 presidential election, but Democrat Barack Obama’s record on the issue — particularly his opposition to a bill that even the most pro-choice senators supported — means it could get considerable traction.
At issue is a bill that Obama opposed when he was a state legislator that would have given legal rights to and required medical care be given any baby who survives an abortion. A federal version, called the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, passed the Senate in 2002 by unanimous consent and was signed into law by President Bush.
The bill was first proposed in Congress in 2000 after congressional testimony was heard describing an abortion method in which newborns who survive are allowed to die. The procedure, which nurses testified is used at Christ Hospital in Chicago, is called live-birth abortion. In the method, delivery is induced, and if the baby survives the procedure, he is left unattended to die.
The bill had such wide support that NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the nation’s leading abortion rights groups, chose not to take a position on it.
Philip Gailey, editor of editorials for the St. Petersburg Times, wrote in a column that when Obama spoke against the bill, he “sounded like the constitutional law professor he was before going into politics.”
“Number one,” Obama said, according to the column, “whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the Equal Protection Clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a child, a 9-month-old child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it — it would essentially bar abortions, because the Equal Protection Clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this were a child, this would be an anti-abortion statute.”
Obama has said he would have supported the federal version of the bill, because it made clear it wasn’t attacking abortion rights, Gailey said. The problem for Obama, though, is that when a second bill was introduced with pro-abortion rights language, the committee he chaired failed to consider it.
“[A]bortion is the kind of issue that may not amount to much standing alone,” Gailey wrote, “but when it is used along with other issues to raise questions about a candidate’s values, it could be troubling to some voters for whom the idea of allowing an infant to die after surviving an abortion is too gruesome to think about.”
Both born-alive bills — the Illinois one and the federal one — were aimed at a practice that pro-lifers say does indeed take places in abortion clinics.
“For many years, one of the many heinous secrets of the abortion movement has been the dreaded complication of a live birth in spite of all efforts to kill the baby prior to birth,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in 2002 when the federal bill was debated.
Obama’s wife Michelle also has made the news lately with the surfacing of a fundraising e-mail she penned in 2004 when her husband was running for U.S. Senate. In it, she defends the practice of partial-birth abortion, saying that because the federal ban has “no provision to protect the health of the mother, this ban on a legitimate medical procedure is clearly unconstitutional and must be overturned.” If elected to the Senate, she wrote in 2004, Obama would be “tireless in the fight to protect women” and would “keep the Bush/Ashcroft team from appointing the Supreme Court Justice that will vote against Roe v. Wade.”
In April 2007 the Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. Obama released a statement following the ruling, saying, “I strongly disagree with today’s Supreme Court ruling, which dramatically departs from previous precedents safeguarding the health of pregnant women.”
Partial-birth abortion is a procedure in which a mid- to late-term baby is pulled from the womb feet-first until only the head remains in the birth canal. The back of the skull is then punctured and the brain suctioned, preventing a live birth. One nurse who witnessed the procedure testified before Congress as to seeing a baby’s hands “clasping and unclasping” and its feet “kicking” before it was killed.
LIBERALS WARN ABOUT MCCAIN — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s pledge to nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of conservatives John Roberts and Samuel Alito has some liberal columnists warning their readers about the justices McCain would support.
“That should send shivers down the spines of those who have seen Roberts and Alito line up with justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as a solid bloc of conservative votes,” longtime political writer John W. Mashek wrote for U.S. News & World Report. “On the liberal side, Justice John Paul Stevens is 88, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in fragile health, and Justice David Souter has talked about wanting to return to his home in New Hampshire. For those concerned about women’s rights on abortion, gun control, and the environment for starters, McCain has laid down his guidelines and they should be disturbing to dissenters…. He’s given us a fair and clear warning.”
Arianna Huffington wrote for the liberal blog HuffingtonPost.com that if McCain’s justices make it on the court, “you can kiss the right to choose [abortion] good-bye for a long, long time.”
“That’s why the unmasking of John McCain is job Number One between now and November,” she wrote.
MCCAIN APPEARS ON ELLEN — McCain appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” May 22 and was asked his thoughts on “gay marriage” in light of the California Supreme Court’s controversial decision. A lesbian, DeGeneres said she plans on taking advantage of the ruling and “marrying.”
“My thoughts are,” McCain said, “that I think that people should be able to enter into legal agreements, and I think that that is something that we should encourage, particularly in the case of insurance and other areas — decisions that have to be made. I just believe in the unique status of marriage between man and woman. And I know that we have a respectful disagreement on that issue.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.