|Then-state Senator Barack Obama publicly argued in 2001 that babies at this age, even ones who have already been born, should not receive legal protection.|
From 2001 to 2003, as an Illionois state senator, Obama was confronted with legislation called the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA). The bill simply defined "every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development" to be an individual protected under the laws of the state. That's it. So legal protection applies to any baby who has been born ("the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother") and is alive -- even if that baby was born as a result of a failed abortion rather than natural labor. The only point of the legislation was that we shouldn't kill or abandon living, already-born human beings. They are persons who deserve to be treated as such. The bill had no affect on the legality or availability of abortion. A federal version of BAIPA passed Congress in 2002 without a single dissenting vote in either house; even NARAL chose not to oppose the bill.
What prompted BAIPA? Many babies have been born alive during labor-induction abortions and then set aside to die, sometimes without assessing whether they are capable of long-term survival (with the appropriate medical assistance) and without even providing basic comfort care (regardless of whether they have good prospects for survival). Former nurse Jill Stanek helped uncover this practice at a Chicago hospital. In testimony before an Illinois Senate committee, Stanek explained: "It is not uncommon for live aborted babies to linger for an hour or two or even longer. At Christ Hospital one of these babies once lived for almost an entire eight-hour shift." One night Stanek found an aborted Down syndrome baby left to die, she explained to a Congressional committee. "I could not bear the thought of this suffering child dying alone in a Soiled Utility Room, so I cradled and rocked him for the 45 minutes that he lived. He was 21 to 22 weeks old." BAIPA would ensure that newborn babies who are born alive prematurely because of abortion are treated with the same care and respect as babies at the same age who were not marked for abortion.
Then-state Senator Obama voted against BAIPA four different times. In 2001 he was the only state senator to speak out against the legislation. In 2003 he led the committee he chaired in killing the bill. BAIPA finally passed after Obama left for Washington.
From 2004 through 2008, on numerous occasions, Obama defended his votes by saying that he opposed the Illinois BAIPA because it did not contain a pre-birth "neutrality clause" included in the federal version, which he said he would have "fully" supported. That one-sentence clause, which was clearly unnecessary, made explicit what had already been implicit: that BAIPA had no affect whatsoever on the legal status of unborn life, and thus could not be used to restrict abortion, as a few of the most extreme abortion defenders had allegedly feared.
But there was a problem with Obama's story. On March 13, 2003, as chairman of the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Obama presided over a committee meeting in which the pre-birth neutrality clause -- copied verbatim from the federal bill -- was added to the Illinois BAIPA (SB 1082). Obama himself voted for the amendment, which made the bill virtually identical (and identical in substance) to the federal version that passed with unanimous consent. But then Obama voted against that amended bill. He led the effort to kill the same bill he later repeatedly claimed he would have supported.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) publicized the official record of these actions on Aug. 11, 2008. Yet when asked by David Brody on Aug. 16 about BAIPA and "some literature put out by the National Right to Life Committee ... basically saying they felt like you misrepresented your position on that bill," Obama continued to misrepresent his position, while attacking those who told the truth:
I hate to say that people are lying, but here's a situation where folks are lying. 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.But that precisely was the bill that was presented at the state level, as the undisputed NRLC-released documents had already proven. FactCheck.org concluded (on Aug. 25, 2008): "We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported. ... Obama's claim [that the state bill was different than the federal] is wrong. In fact, by the time the HHS Committee voted on the bill, it did contain language identical to the federal act. ... The documents from the NRLC support the group's claims that Obama is misrepresenting the contents of SB 1082."
A second justification Obama has offered for voting against BAIPA -- the one he provided in a debate against John McCain -- is that Illinois law already protected babies who survive abortions. But, first, that is not the reason Obama offered at the time he voted against the bills (see below). Second, the old law in question was riddled with loopholes, as NRLC explained. It only applied to "viable" babies, and those who were younger could be abandoned and treated like medical waste. Moreover, "viability" was left to the determination of the same abortionist who had been charged with killing the unborn child. And a 1993 court decree effectively made even this weak law unenforceable. Indeed, the Illinois Attorney General had declared that the cases of infant abandonment about which nurses had testified could not be dealt with under Illinois law. That's why BAIPA was necessary in the first place. Obama knew that.
Obama actually argued against legislation (distinct from, but packaged with, BAIPA) in 2002 that would have more strictly defined the circumstances under which the presence of a second physician would be required to determine whether an abortion survivor is viable. Obama worried, not about the child's life that was at stake, but about "what liabilities the doctor might have in this situation." He said:
As I understand it, this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined ... 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. ... [A]dding 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.Obama's real opposition to BAIPA was probably best explained in his 2001 floor speech, in which he objected to recognizing a "pre-viable fetus" (a living human infant who is unlikely to survive for very long) as a person.
[T]his [bill] is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny. Number one, 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 -- a child, a nine-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 is a child, then this would be an anti-abortion statute.Of course, BAIPA could not "bar abortions," since it only protected already-born infants. But Obama seemed to recognize that location (in the womb or out) is irrelevant to the nature and moral status of a human being -- so affording legal protection to "pre-viable" babies who have been born (all such babies, Obama implied, whether born as a result of abortion or not) calls into question the killing of babies at the exact same age who have not been born. This uncomfortable logic would surely cause most people to rethink the ethics of killing unborn children, lest they accept, by force of logic, the killing of newborn children. Obama did the opposite, defending the killing of newborn children lest there be any undermining, if only in theory, of the killing of unborn children. He simply cared more about abortion than he did about newborn human life.
Obama's claim that BAIPA does not "pass constitutional muster" is ridiculous. BAIPA is obviously constitutionally permissible, and it is obviously consistent with Supreme Court precedent under Roe v. Wade (which invented a right to abortion, not a right to a dead child in the womb or out, as Obama presumably thinks). Not even the most extreme abortion advocates in Congress thought otherwise. And no challenges to the federal law or the various state laws have been brought forth in the many years since they were enacted. Obama stands alone -- at least among prominent public officials -- in his abortion radicalism.
On June 29, 2001, Sen. Barbara Boxer, well known for her vigorous commitment to unfettered abortion, said this of the federal BAIPA: "Of course, we believe everyone born should deserve the protections of this bill. Who could be more vulnerable than a newborn baby? So, of course, we agree with that ... We join with an 'aye' vote on this. I hope it will, in fact, be unanimous." And it was, indeed, unanimous, because Barack Obama had not yet been elected to the U.S. Senate.
To learn more about Obama's record on infanticide and BAIPA, see the extensive analysis from NRLC, including the history of the controversy, detailed responses to Obama's claims, and a collection of relevant documents. Jill Stanek has also compiled links to relevant documents (bills, votes, transcripts, audio and more).