Since former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich pointed out in the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday that President Barack Obama supported infanticide, the media has been in an uproar. Many outlets are wondering where such an accusation could possibly come from.
Unfortunately, during the last presidential campaign cycle, too many outlets were too busy fawning over then presidential candidate Barack Obama and doing political hit jobs on GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to bother to ask Mr. Obama about reports regarding his votes and remarks within the Illinois State Senate concerning the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Additionally, Mr. Obama has done a good job in distorting his position in this area.
First, many Republicans and conservatives alike are referring to a 2003 health and human services committee vote within the Illinois State Senate. Former Washington Times columnist Amanda Carpenter covered this story in great detail in her Town Hall column in 2008: (emphasis is mine)
“We have a smoking gun committee report,” said National Right to Life Committee Legislative Counsel Susan Muskett.
Muskett’s “smoking gun” is a 2003 Health and Human Services Committee report recorded by Republican committee staff. It documents a unanimous 10-0 vote by the 2003 Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which Obama chaired at the time, to amend BAIPA to include the exact same language that was added to the federal version to protect Roe v. Wade. The committee report also shows a subsequent “final action” vote to determine if the bill should advance out of committee or be killed. The bill was defeated 6-4. Chairman Obama voted in the majority.
This means that, in essence, Obama voted to successfully amend the bill in a way that Obama has said would have enabled him to support it—before he voted against it. It also puts Obama further to the left of NARAL Pro-Choice America. According to a statement released by the abortion-rights lobby in the run-up to the U.S. Senate’s BAIPA vote in 2002, “NARAL does not oppose passage of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act … floor debate served to clarify the bill’s intent and assure us that it is not targeted at Roe v. Wade or a woman’s right to choose.”
For those who may doubt partisan records, the Republican committee report is backed by an Associated Press article that documented the 6-4 vote on the amended version of the bill.
“The Senate Health and Human Services Committee rejected a bill that declares any fetus with a beating heart or muscle movement outside the womb as ‘born alive,’” reporter Kristy Hessman’s AP story said. Her article was filed from Springfield, Ill., and dated the same day as the Republican committee report, removing any doubt she may have been reporting on any other measure. “The measure is in response to a rare abortion procedure in which labor is induced and the fetus sometimes survives, possibly for hours,” Hessman wrote. “The sponsor, Sen. Rick Winkel, R-Champaign, said the bill is modeled after a recent federal policy that defines a ‘born-alive’ infant. But critics said defining when a fetus is ‘alive’ could require doctors to provide care and might expose them to legal action if they don’t, even if there was no way the fetus could survive outside the womb. Winkel’s bill got four ‘yes’ votes and six ‘no’ votes.”
Even before that committee vote happened, though, Senator Obama voted his signature “present” on three bills that were likely to pass the Illinois Senate but were later rejected in the House Judiciary Committee.
On March 30, 2001 Illinois State Senator Patrick O’Malley introduced three pieces of legislation aimed at protecting an infant who had survived an abortion outside the mother’s womb. These bills were:
SB 1093 – Provided that no abortion procedure which had the reasonable likelihood of producing a live-born child should be undertaken unless a second doctor was present to provide medical treatment for the child.
SB 1094 – Created a cause of action if a child was born alive after an abortion and the abortionist harmed or neglected the child or failed to provide life –sustaining medical treatment.
SB 1095 – Provided a definition for a “born alive” infant.
After Senator O’Malley presented the first bill in the series before the roll call, he opened the floor for discussion. Then-State Senator Barack Obama responded: (emphasis is mine)
This bill was fairly extensively debated in the judiciary committee, and so I won’t belabor the issue. I do want to just make sure that everybody in the Senate knows what this bill is about, as I understand it. Sen. O’Malley, the testimony during the committee indicated that one of the key concerns was – – is that there was a method of abortion, and induced abortion, where the – – the fetus or child, as – – as some might describe it, is still temporarily alive outside the womb. And one of those concerns that came out in the testimony was the fact that they were not being properly cared for during that brief period of time that they were still living. Is that correct? Is that an accurate sort of description of one of the key concerns in the bill?
Sen. Obama, it is certainly a key concern that the – – the way children are treated following their birth under these circumstances has been reported to be, without question, in my opinion, less than humane, and so this bill suggests that appropriate steps be taken to treat that baby as a – – a citizen of United States and afforded all the rights and protections it deserves under the Constitution of the United States.
Well, it turned out – – that during the testimony a number of members were typically in favor of a woman’s right to choose an abortion were actually sympathetic to some of the concerns that you’re – – you raised and that were raised by witnesses in the testimony. And there was some suggestion that we might be able to craft something that might meet constitutional muster with respect to caring for fetuses or children who were delivered in this fashion.
Unfortunately, this bill goes a little bit further so I just want to suggest, not that I think it’ll make too much difference with respect to how we vote, that this 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 we 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.
For that purpose, I think it would probably be found unconstitutional is that this essentially says that a doctor is required to provide Treatment to a pre-viable child, or fetus, however you want to describe it. Viability is the line that is been drawn by the Supreme Court to determine whether or not an abortion can or cannot take place. And if replacing a burden on the doctor that says you have to keep alive even a pre-viable child as long as possible and give them as much medical attention as – – as is necessary to try to keep that child alive, then we’re probably crossing the line in terms of unconstitutionality. Now as I said before, this probably won’t make any difference.
I recall the last time we had a debate about abortion, we passed a bill out of here. I suggested to members of the judiciary committee that it was unconstitutional and it would be struck down by the seventh circuit. It was. I recognize this is a passionate issue, and so why – – I won’t, as I said belabor the point. I think it’s important to recognize though that this is an area where potentially we might have compromised and – – and arrived at a bill that dealt with the narrow concerns about how a – – a pre-viable fetus or child was treated by a hospital. We decided not to do that. We’re going much further than that in this bill. As a consequence, I think that we’ll probably end up in court once again, as we often do, on this issue. And as a consequence, I’ll be voting present.
Thank you, Mdm. Pres. and ladies and gentlemen of the Senate the one thing the previous speaker he did say is that this is a passionate issue. And – – however, I don’t think it’s a challenge a bowl on constitutional grounds in the manner that was described. This is essentially very simple. The Constitution does not say that a child born must be viable in order to live and be accorded the rights of citizenship. It simply says it must be born. And a child who survives birth is a US citizen, and we need to do everything we can here in the state of Illinois and, frankly, in the other 49 states and in the halls of Washington, DC, to make sure that we secure or and protect those rights. So if this legislation is designed to clarify, research your and reaffirm the rights that are entitled to a child born in America, so be it, and it is constitutional. I would appreciate your support.
All three bills passed the State Senate but failed in the House Judiciary Committee later on, so the bills never came to a vote in the House.
However, President George W. Bush signed the federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act into law on August 5, 2002. In 2005, the Illinois legislature passed a Born Alive Infants Protection bill, which was signed into law.