29 August 2008

Obama and "Killing Babies": Factcheck

Remember Jerome Corsi's claim that, if an aborted fetus survived the procedure, Obama "wanted the child killed if the mother desired an abortion"? Annenberg Political FactCheck has presented an analysis of the claims for and against Obama and his position on Illinois "born alive" legislation. This legislation would have provided "legal protection" for "any aborted fetus that showed signs of life [. . .] even if doctors believe it could not survive." As a state senator, Obama opposed such legislation in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Many qualify this position as "infanticide." However, as Factcheck suggests,
Whether opposing "born alive" legislation is the same as supporting "infanticide"[. . .] is entirely a matter of interpretation. That could be true only for those, such as Obama's 2004 Republican opponent, Alan Keyes, who believe a fetus that doctors give no chance of surviving is an "infant." It is worth noting that Illinois law already provided that physicians must protect the life of a fetus when there is "a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the womb, with or without artificial support" [emphasis added].
Obama's argument against approving the Illinois legislation was based on two things: that Illinois had a standing law covering aborted fetuses that were "born alive," and that language in two versions of the legislation provided a means of attacking, and potentially overturning, Roe v. Wade directly:
Obama, Senate floor, 2001: Number one, whenever we define a previable 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 antiabortion statute.
In terms of the "infanticide" question, it comes down to a reinforcement of Obama's "pro-choice" position. It looks as though he tried to protect Roe V. Wade and saw the current Illinois law as sufficient for protecting the lives of the newly born, aborted or full term, and it appears that presenting Obama as someone willing to "kill babies" relies on a matter of interpretation, as do all abortion debates: when is a fetus a child? But, to tell the truth, I'm not willing to engage in that particular pro-life/pro-choice discussion at this time. The arguments on both sides are old and entrenched. I've heard them, you've heard them--we know how we, as individuals, define "child" and "abortion," so let's leave it there for now.

Update: The McCain campaign has run an ad "featuring a woman who said she survived a failed abortion and that 'If Barack Obama had his way, I wouldn't be here.'" Factcheck reviews the ad alongside a brief analysis of its claims that Obama doesn't support protecting infants who survive an abortion.

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