FactCheck: It’s the NRLC, not Obama, telling the truth on BAIPA

During the weekend of the Saddleback Civil Forum, Barack Obama did an interview with Christian Broadcast Network’s (CBN) David Brody in which the junior Senator of Illinois got steamed up over attacks on his Illinois State Senate record on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.  In the interview, he outright accused the NRLC of “lying” about his position, which was that if the bill that came up before the Ill. State Senate virtually mirrored federal BAIPA legislation – legislation which ‘protected’ a woman’s right to ‘choose’ – then he would have supported it.

Well, FactCheck has done a little digging and as it turns out, it’s Senator Obama who is lying about his position on BAIPA (via Tom Maguire):

Anti-abortion activists accuse Obama of “supporting infanticide,” and the National Right to Life Committee says he’s conducted a “four-year effort to cover up his full role in killing legislation to protect born-alive survivors of abortions.” Obama says they’re “lying.”

At issue is Obama’s opposition to Illinois legislation in 2001, 2002 and 2003 that would have defined any aborted fetus that showed signs of life as a “born alive infant” entitled to legal protection, even if doctors believe it could not survive.

Obama opposed the 2001 and 2002 “born alive” bills as backdoor attacks on a woman’s legal right to abortion, but he says he would have been “fully in support” of a similar federal bill that President Bush had signed in 2002, because it contained protections for Roe v. Wade.

We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported. Both contained identical clauses saying that nothing in the bills could be construed to affect legal rights of an unborn fetus, according to an undisputed summary written immediately after the committee’s 2003 mark-up session.

Whether opposing “born alive” legislation is the same as supporting “infanticide,” however, 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.”

Read the whole thing for details and links on Obama’s positions and votes in the Illinois State Senate.

BTW, here’s a little more detail as to what Fact Check noted above in the last paragraph about what Illinois law already protected.  It was a 1975 law, and it explicitly stated that it protected viable fetuses, not fetuses initially perceived as non-viable after being born alive, as explained here:

The other reason Obama opposed the bill, according to his website, is that the “born alive principle was already the law in Illinois.” An existing 1975 law is cited as proof that new legislation was unnecessary.

Illinois state senator Dale Righter, the ranking Republican on the 2003 Health and Human Services Committee, says Obama did not raise that concern at the hearing: “There was no discussion of anything like that.” Democratic state senator Susan Garrett similarly says she did not remember the 1975 law being raised during the hearing.


In any case, the 1975 law does not apply to non-viable infants born alive. According to Paul Linton, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, the 2003 bill was a response to the question, “What duties are owed to a non-viable child born alive?” The bill sought to guarantee comfort care for non-viable infants similar to the care that would be provided to any terminally ill adult. “Many of these babies lived for hours after birth,” Susan T. Muskett, legislative counsel at the NRLC, writes in an email. “Are these babies medical waste, or persons protected by the Constitution? Obama’s reaction was to consider them non-entities under Roe v. Wade until they were ‘viable,’ even when they were gasping outside the mother.”

Here’s that law.

As I understand it, the attempt at getting BAIPA passed as law in IL was to allow those gasping “non-viable” born alive infants to be classified as human beings, as well as to have a second physician on a standby in order to provide a second opinion of sorts as to the viability – or lack thereof – of the born alive infant.

In the case of the 2003 IL State Senate BAIPA debate, Barack Obama – as Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee - had the chance to vote in committee to amend the proposed legislation that would have included the protections for a woman’s right to have an abortion that the federal law did.  He and the other Democrats on the committee voted not to (emphasis added):

When Democrats took control of the Illinois Senate in 2003, Obama became chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. The Born Alive Infants bill and an amendment to add exactly the language Boxer said protected Roe in the federal bill (which President Bush had signed into law in 2002) was referred to this committee.

According to the records made by committee Republicans, the amendment to include in the Illinois bill the language Boxer said protected Roe was approved by a 10 to zero vote of the committee. (This vote, Republicans say, was a common procedural courtesy extended to the sponsoring senator.) The bill as amended was then put to a committee vote. It lost four to six, with Obama voting “no.”

“I just read a copy of the Illinois Senate Republican Staff analysis on SB 1082 (93rd General Assembly), and, contrary to the bill status report on the Illinois General Assembly Website, it shows the bill — as amended — was in fact called for a vote in committee on a motion to recommend the bill for passage to the whole Senate,” former Sen. Winkel, now an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, wrote me in an email. “That motion failed 4-6-0 along party lines, and the chairman, then state Sen. Barack Obama, voted no. The result is that the bill died in the committee.”

Righter backed up Winkel’s explanation of the Republican records. “If I want to see a vote history in committee on a certain bill, I will go to our records first,” Righter told me. “Now, another source of information is the online service that you checked, as well. The online service in this case is rather vague. It just says that the bill never made it out of committee. But I have full faith and confidence in what our files show, absolutely.”

In his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, Obama was challenged on his opposition to the Born Alive Infants bill during a debate with Alan Keyes. “At the federal, level there was a similar bill that passed because it had an amendment saying this does not encroach on Roe v. Wade,” Obama said. “I would have voted for that bill.”

This statement seems to contradict the record made by committee Republicans, attested to by Winkel and Righter, which says he directly voted against the bill that included the amendment with the Roe-protecting language from the federal bill. “The amendment made my bill the same as the federal legislation,” Winkel told me.

Obama’s been caught telling a whopper.  Again. 

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