WASHINGTON -- "On partial-birth abortion and on the rights of infants who survive abortions, Barack Obama's answers in the third presidential debate were highly misleading," commented Douglas Johnson, longtime legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nation's largest pro-life organization.
- The Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA) was a simple three-sentence bill to establish that every baby who achieved "complete expulsion or extraction" from the mother, and who showed defined signs of life, was to enjoy the legal protections of a "person." As a state senator, Obama led the opposition to this bill in 2001, 2002, and 2003. On March 13, 2003, Obama killed the bill at a committee meeting over which he presided as chairman. In the October 15 debate, Obama said, "The fact is that there was already a law on the books in Illinois that required providing lifesaving treatment." This claim is highly misleading. The law "on the books," 720 ILCS 510.6, on its face, applies only where an abortionist declares before the abortion that there was "a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the womb." But humans are often born alive a month or more before they reach the point where such "sustained survival" – that is, long-term survival – is likely or possible (which is often called the point of "viability"). When Obama spoke against the BAIPA on the Illinois Senate floor in 2001 -- the only senator to do so -- he didn't even claim that the BAIPA was duplicative of existing law. Rather, he objected to defining what he called a "previable fetus" as a legal "person" -- even though the bill clearly applied only to fully born infants. These events are detailed in an August 28, 2008 NRLC White Paper titled "Barack Obama’s Actions and Shifting Claims on the Protection of Born-Alive Aborted Infants -– and What They Tell Us About His Thinking on Abortion," which contains numerous hyperlinks to primary sources.
- Because 720 ILCS 510.6 gives complete discretion to the abortionist himself, and because a 1993 consent decree issued by a federal court nullified key provisions (such as the definition of "born alive"), the law was so riddled with loopholes as to be virtually unenforceable even with respect to babies who had clearly achieved the capacity for long-term survival. During Obama's time in the state Senate there were bills (other than the BAIPA) to close some of these loopholes in order to provide more effective protections for post-viable abortion survivors. Obama opposed those bills, too. On April 4, 2002, Obama opposed a bill (SB 1663) that would have more strictly defined the circumstances under which the presence of a second physician (to care for a live-born baby) would be required during a post-viability abortion; Obama argued that this would "burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion . . . [I]t’s important to understand that this issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births."
- In the debate, Obama said that the state BAIPA "would have helped to undermine Roe v. Wade." To evaluate this claim, one must examine the actual language of the BAIPAs. The original 2001 bill was only three sentences long; the third sentence was as follows: "(c) A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law." As recently as August 19, 2008, the Obama campaign issued a memo in which it singled out that sentence as "Language Clearly Threatening Roe." This claim is consistent with Obama's 2001 argument that a "previable fetus" should not be regarded as a person, even when born alive.
- At the March 13, 2003 committee meeting over which Obama presided, the "immediate protection" clause was removed and replaced with the "neutrality clause" copied from the federal BAIPA, which said explicitly that the bill had no bearing on the legal status of any human "prior to being being born alive." Obama then led the committee Democrats in voting down the bill, anyway. For years afterwards, Obama claimed that the state BAIPA had lacked the "neutrality clause," and on August 16, 2008, Obama said that NRLC was "lying" when we said otherwise. This dispute was reviewed by both FactCheck.org and Politifact.org, both of which came down on NRLC's side. To read the original 2001 Illinois BAIPA side-by-side with the amended 2003 version -- both of which Obama voted against -- click here.
- In the presidential debate, Senator John McCain accurately noted that Obama had opposed Illinois legislation to ban partial-birth abortions. This is true -- indeed, during his primary contest with Hillary Clinton, Obama's supporters presented detailed accounts lauding his leadership in opposing legislation to ban partial-birth abortion, afford legal protection to born-alive babies, and require parental notification for abortion. (Under Article IV, Section 8 of the Illinois Constitution, the effect of voting "present" on the Illinois Senate floor is exactly the same as voting "no.") In his response to McCain in the debate, Obama said, "I am completely supportive of a ban on late-term abortions, partial-birth or otherwise, as long as there's an exception for the mother's health and life, and this did not contain that exception." Here, Obama packed two distortions into a single sentence. First, Obama is using the phrase "late term" to refer to the third trimester of pregnancy. It has long been established that the great majority of partial-birth abortions are performed in the fifth and sixth months; these are babies developed enough to be born alive (hence the term "partial birth"), but are not "late term" in the sense that the phrase is used by pro-abortion advocates. Secondly, the Supreme Court has defined the term "health" to include, in the abortion context, "all factors -- physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age -- relevant to the well-being of the patient."
- Obama is a cosponsor of the so-called "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA) (S. 1173), which would nullify all state and federal laws that "interfere with" access to abortion before "viability" (as defined by the abortionist). The bill would also nullify all state and federal laws that "interfere with" access to abortion after viability if deemed to enhance "health." Because the term "health" is not qualified in the bill, no state would be allowed to exclude any "health" justification whatever for post-viability abortions, because to do so would impermissibly narrow a federally guaranteed right. In short, the FOCA would establish a federal "abortion right" broader than Roe v. Wade and, in the words of the National Organization for Women, "sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies." The chief sponsors and advocacy groups backing the legislation have acknowledged that it would make partial-birth abortion legal again, nullify state parental notification laws, and require the state and federal governments to fund abortions.
- Speaking to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund on July 17, 2007, Obama said, "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do."
- In the presidential debate, Obama said, "But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together" -- for example, by "helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby." Yet, Obama advocates cutting off all federal aid to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). Across the nation, CPCs provide all manner of assistance to women who are experiencing crisis pregnancies, and they save the lives of many children. There is a very modest amount of federal funding going to such centers in some states. Pro-life lawmakers have pushed legislation to greatly expand such funding, but it has been blocked by lawmakers allied with the abortion lobby. Late in 2007, RHrealitycheck.org, a prominent pro-abortion advocacy website (representing the side hostile to such funding), submitted in writing the following question to the Obama campaign: "Does Sen. Obama support continuing federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers?" The Obama campaign's written response was short, but it spoke volumes: "No."
For additional information on Obama's sweeping pro-abortion agenda, read "Efforts to Sell Obama to Pro-Life Americans_Collide With His Support for Sweeping Pro-abortion Policy Changes," by NRLC's Douglas Johnson (from National Review Online) and "Obama's Abortion Extremism" by Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University (from Public Discourse).