Obama's not really telling the truth about the Illinois Born-Alive Infant Protection Act
Obama's case against the bill did not revolve around existing state law, as he seemed to suggest last night. The law Obama referred to in the debate was the Illinois abortion statute enacted in 1975. But at the time of the debate about the Born Alive Act, the Illinois Attorney General had publicly stated that he could not prosecute incidents such as those reported by nurses at Christ Hospital in Chicago and elsewhere (including a baby left to die in soiled linen closet) because the 1975 law was inadequate. It only protected ''viable'' infants-and left the determination of viability up to the ''medical judgment'' of the abortionist who had just failed to kill the baby in the womb. This provision of the law weakened the hand of prosecutors to the vanishing point. That is why the Born Alive Act was necessary-and everybody knew it. Moreover, the Born Alive Act would have had the effect of at least ensuring comfort care to babies whose prospects for long-term survival were dim and who might therefore have been regarded as ''nonviable.'' As Obama and the other legislators knew, without the Born Alive Act these babies could continue to be treated as hospital refuse. That's how the dying baby that Nurse Jill Stanek found in the soiled linen closet got there.
Obama, who in 2003 became the chairman of the state senate's Health and Human Services Committee, argued not that existing law did everything the newly proposed measure would do, but that the born-alive bill would put too much of a burden on the practice of abortion.
''As I understand it,'' Obama said during the floor debate, ''this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, 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.'' This, he argued, was too much to ask of a doctor performing abortions, and it could also, as he put it, ''burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.''
To address the concern of Obama and others who believed in a sweeping right to abortion, Illinois legislators in 2003 amended the bill in Obama's committee, inserting language clarifying that the bill would in no way affect the legal status of a human being before birth. It applied only to a child born alive. Identical ''neutrality'' language in the federal version of the bill had persuaded every single pro-choice legislator in Congress to support the measure. But Obama opposed the bill anyway, and his fellow Democrats followed their chairman's lead, killing the legislation in committee.
Read the whole thing.