Factcheck.org on Obama's opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act

Abortion may be the most troubling issue Barack Obama has faced in his bid to lure Evangelical voters to his campaign. Extremely controversial is Obama’s handling of questions surrounding the federal and IL state versions of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA).

This Newsweek article excerpts Factcheck.org’s examination of the controversy. Here is the thumbnail version:

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.

It appears that Obama did not believe living, possibly pre-viable infants had legal status as persons. It is unclear to me what he believes now. His campaign’s most recent explanation involves an argument that suggests a vote against BAIPA at the state level was necessary to protect Roe v. Wade but a vote in favor at the federal level would have no bearing on RvW. I do not understand this reasoning.

I suppose another way to frame the issue is to ask when is an abortion complete? If the fetus is delivered and is alive but of questionable viability, how do we regard this life? The Obama doctrine appears to be that an infant born alive but of questionable viability is not a legal person – or at least this was his view while an IL Senator. Here is a speech on the 2001 Senate floor:

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.

Rick Warren at the Saddleback Civil Forum asked Sen. Obama when a baby is entitled to human rights and Obama said such answers are above his pay grade. From a reading of this material, making these determinations was at his pay grade at one time not long ago. Simply saying he favors the federal bill now really does not address what protection he now believes should be afforded these infants.

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  • Lynn David

    Just wondering, Warren. Purely as a psychologist is that question also above your pay grade? Certainly as a human it is not, because your religious beliefs intervene on the side of conception.

    Now I have a gut reaction in that respect, one that I think would fit with the idea of psychology (isn’t that what drives us psychologically speaking anyway?). And that is that once a woman has felt her unborn child kick, I could not were I female allow the death of that child (happens to coincide with the Muslim idea circa the 12th week). But then I’m a gay atheist (though a spiritual atheist, go figure what that means) who probably doesn’t get a say in such things.

    But all in all, I wonder if the dogmatic answer that human life deserving of rights begins at conception isn’t a matter of destroying that spirtuality (aka wonder) about the matter that humans should feel for themselves and then truly express with their choice. And I think that is where Obama’s opinion lies.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Lynn David – You threw me off there. I thought you were going to say that respecting life as a mystery that begins at conception preserves the wonder. I do not see how Obama’s viability position does anything but respect (yea, reverences) Roe v Wade.

    I recall being in Intro to Psychology studying fetal development and wondering why there was any question about the matter.

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