Sunday, October 05, 2008

Obama, Life and Human Rights (Part II)

In my last post, I looked at Obama's statements on the human rights of a baby - in particular related to abortion. In this post, I will examine his actions as a legislator.

First, I must acknowledge the wonderful work done by Jill Stanek, a nurse whose ordeal at Christ Hospital, pushed her into the forefront of this issue. Ms. Stanek, in 1996 held a newborn boy who had Downs Syndrome, while she watched him die because he survived an abortion. She contacted law enforcement officials who told her the law did not protect infants who survive an abortion - as a result she began a campaign for a law which would protect any baby who had been delivered from the womb from being "terminated."

This legislation, known as the Born Alive Infants Protection Act was overwhelmingly passed at the federal level and signed into law by President Bush. It passed the House by a voice vote and it passed the Senate unanimously.

In 2001, in Illinois while Barack Obama was serving in the State Senate, state Sen. Patrick O’Malley of Oak Lawn introduced a parallel bill to apply at the state level. [Due to constitutional concerns, even if the federal law had been in effect, it is not likely that it could be enforced in the individual states - see United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 (2000)]. The bill used as its definition of "live birth" the same definition used by the World Health Organization in 1950 and adopted by the United Nations in 1955. See Senate Bill 1095, Born Alive Infant Protection Act. The bill was sent to the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee where Sen. Obama voted no. (see .pdf here). When the measure reached the floor, Senator Obama was the only voice to speak in opposition and indicated he would vote present (which, for purposes of this bill, had the same effect as a "no" vote). The bill passed The floor discussion can be read here (.pdf transcript, pages 84-90). Here is Senator Obama's objection:
… I just want to suggest … that this [legislation] 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 — 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 is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute. For that purpose, I think it would probably be found unconstitutional.
What he is arguing is that because the Act covers a baby when it is removed or expelled from the mother, the Act would also protect a living baby in the womb. Never mind that the definition, as noted above, only covers a baby who has been delivered in some fashion from the mother.

Although the bill passed the Illinois Senate - over Barak Obama's objections - it died in the house. See here for Obama's "present" vote on the Illinois Senate floor (.pdf), March 30, 2001.

Recall that we are looking at when Barak Obama thinks a living human gets human rights - for Obama in 2001, a baby who had fully been delivered from the mother was not guaranteed the protection of the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights or any human rights. It could be exposed and left to die and Barack Obama was alright with that.

In 2002, Sen. O'Malley again introduced the Born Alive Infants Protection Act as SB1662. Again the bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where Sen. Obama voted no (.pdf). Having passed the committee, the bill was sent to the floor, where again Sen. Obama led the opposition to it. Transcript from April 4, 2002 (.pdf) - see pages 28-35. Specifically, if you read his objections, he believe the intent of this bill is not to protect a human life but is "...really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman... to perform an abortion." Ms. Stanek has posted audio of Obama making this objection on the floor here. Unlike in the prior year, this time Sen. Obama actually voted "no" on this bill. See here (.pdf). Again the bill died in the Illinios House.

In 2003, control of the House switched parties and although the Bill was introduced again, this time it was not sent to the Judiciary Committee, but to the Health & Human Services Committee, chaired by Barack Obama. In Committee, the Bill was amended to add the "neutrality clause" from the federal version to the Illinois Bill version to make them absolutely identical. Barack Obama voted in favor of adding this clause. See the docket, here in .pdf. Even after making this amendment, which appeased rapid-pro-abortion politicians such as Barbara Boxer, Barack Obama still voted to kill the bill which would protect a child who was born alive during an abortion. Once again, the bill was killed and did not see the light of day. For a very complete discussion of the episode of the 2003 bill see this page by Jill Stanek.

The bill did not pass the statehouse until after Barack had left the state senate. See this letter to the editor from Former state senator Rick Winkel, in which Sen. Winkel notes that none of the opponents, he believes, actually favor infanticide, but all were so rabidly pro-abortion that none could bring themselves to vote for protecting the newly born:

On March 12, 2003, I presented the neutrality amendment before the state Health and Human Services Committee chaired by then state Sen. Obama. All 10 committee members voted to add the amendment. Nevertheless, during the same hearing, the committee rejected the bill as amended on a vote of 4-6-0. Obama voted no.

I was stunned because the neutrality amendment addressed the concerns of opponents. It was the same neutrality language approved by U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry in the federal bill.

None of those who voted against SB-1082 favored infanticide. Rather their zeal for pro-choice dogma was clearly the overriding force behind their negative votes rather than concern that my bill would protect babies who are born alive.

In 2005, I joined 116 state representatives and 54 senators in voting for HB-984, which contained the same born-alive definition and neutrality language as Senate Bill 1082, plus some extra language to satisfy the most zealous pro-choice legislators, yet harmless to the bill's purpose. No one voted against it. We had finally accomplished what we had set out to do—protect a newborn baby's life.
To summarize: Barack Obama has, through his actions, shown the world that if it comes to a newborn baby's human right to life versus a mother who intended that that child die in an abortion, the baby has no right to life and must die. To answer the question he avoided at the Civil Forum, it appears that for Barack Obama, no fetus has any human rights and no newborn has human rights if the mother desires the child dead.

Addendum:

I did not intend for there to be such a long delay between my first post on this subject, immediately below, and this one. Indeed, most of this was written at the time of that post (in fact, they originally were to be one, but due to the length, I split them), however, there were many new news stories and developments. As I expressed initially, I started writing this with a desire to give Senator Obama the full benefit of any doubt and have spent a great deal of time reading the charges and countercharges and looking for an exculpatory explanation which would indicate Barack Obama would, in deed, give a new born child some human rights. Nevertheless, the record is quite clear. If you doubt me, please do your own research. Finally, this link sets forth Sen. Obama's defense of his record on this issue:

http://fightthesmears.com/articles/15/wildaccusations

You may also read the webpage of former Catholic University Law School Dean Douglas Kmeic here. (See also, Ed Whelan who counters Kmeic here.)

And finally, here is a link to an examination of this issue by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania: FactCheck.Org

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