If Words and Example Matter So Much…

If Words and Example Matter So Much… September 11, 2008

In the political debate on abortion, those who lean toward McCain and/or against Obama place great emphasis on rhetoric. Obamasupports abortion. McCain opposes it. There is often an unwillingness to step beyond the rhetoric to likely policy implications, because Obama’s rhetoric is in itself so pernicious and scandalous. Likewise, we are often told that example matters. Even if Sarah Palin never mentions abortion and has aligned herself with McCain’s awful economic policies, her personal example– choosing to raise a child with Down’s Syndrome– is supposed to set the right example. What she actually stands for seems to take a back seat to this sweeping narrative.

The problem is that people who use these arguments to support McCain and Palin are not consistent. If rhetoric matters, if what you say matters, then how can one account for the widening perception that McCain is running one of the most disreputable campaigns in history, that he is willing to lie his way to the White House? As Michael Kinsley puts it: “He says he’d rather lose the election than lose the war. But it seems he’d rather lose that honor he’s always going on about than lose the election.” Instead of issues, we get trivial diversions, personal smears, and outright lies. And Andrew Sullivan notes that: “when he had the chance to engage in a real and substantive debate against the most talented politician of the next generation in a fall campaign where vital issues are at stake, what did McCain do? He began his general campaign with a series of grotesque, trivial and absurd MTV-style attacks on Obama’s virtues and implied disgusting things about his opponent’s patriotism.” Look, all politicians spin and obfuscate, but McCain is taking this to a whole new level.

Look at the latest. The issues? Nah. Obama is accused of teaching toddlers about sex. A ridiculous distortion of a phase used by Obama (a phrase that happens to be one of McCain’s personal favorites, but let’s not let cynicism stand in the way of a good attack) solely to divert attention from the issues. And then there are the lies, such as Palin’s saying “no thanks” to the Ketchikan bridge. In fact, as the record clearly shows, Congress killed the bridge back in 2005, but (through the power of Ted Stevens) allowed Alaska to keep the cash, and aspiring governor Sarah Palin was actively supporting the bridge. It was only when the Democrats took over Congress and called a halt to the money flow that Palin opposed the bridge– because Alaska would have to cough up its own money! Oh, and she kept all the federal money that had already been shipped out. Her overall record on pork is also being distorted.

McCain is doing this because he knows he can get away with it. He knows the media will always latch onto a need for balance, no matter how far-fetched. And it works. As McCain keeps lying that Obama will tax ordinary people (while in fact he will deliver them a cut while McCain offers nothing) more than half of the people think that Obama will raise their taxes. McCain knows what he is doing. He is exploiting a weak and cynical media, and buying into a form of moral relativism which blurs the boundary between truth and falsehood. So yes, rhetoric and example do matter. Should not McCain he held accountable for his egregious violations of the eight commandment? Don’t we, as Catholics, have a primary duty to stand up for the truth?

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  • Who’s saying that rhetoric matters? I can gaurantee that NO-ONE is swept away by McCain’s rhetoric — he simply hasn’t got any rhetorical skill at all. Palin has her delivery down pat (think Tina Fey at the Weekend Update desk), but I wouldn’t call that rhetoric in any classical sense.

  • joseph

    Ugh, more evidence that MM doesn’t read any of the comments in his combox but just continues to stereotype in order to convince himself that it is morally right to vote for Obama. They are all sinners. None of them are saints. None of them are walking examples of Christ. The reason why people like me are voting against Obama is because Obama has vowed to be the poster boy for abortions at all stages, open to everyone, world-wide. McCain, on the other hand, has vowed to do what he can to make abortion illegal. Obama ignores science on when live begins (and, therefore, it makes it utterly impossible to believe that he really cares about how many abortions occur. Why would he?) and McCain has firmly stated that he believes it begins at conception. Biden is an out of communion Catholic who says he believes what the Church teaches, yet he plans to promote Obama’s abortionfest if they are elected. Palin has affirmed that she believes life begins at conception and is in line with Catholic teaching (rape, nor incest, is justification for abortion).

    If McCain/Palin spend time at the local strip club every night, that still doesn’t negate what they say they believe about life and what they have vowed they will do about abortion. If Obama/Biden walk amongst the ordinary folk like Jesus, hand out bowls of soup at soup kitchens, and pray publicly, that still will not negate what they say and believe about life and what they have vowed to do about abortion.


  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Obama’s proposals for “kindergarten sex education” are exactly the same as those generally put forth in “Protecting God’s Children”, the most popular— in many places, mandatory– program in the U.S. Church for countering the dangers/threats of the sexual abuse of children.

    McCain not only abuses truth in that ad, but plays quite sinisterly on the nation’s remaining racist fears of the supposed unruly, black sexual predator.

    Truly despicable–as is his new Wolf sd.

  • Jeremy

    You made a good point. Unfortunately, because of you have acted as a partisan apologist for the Democrat party, it will probably be dismissed by most. You also fail to note the ‘lapses’ on the Democrat’s side, although perhaps not yet as bad, I expect to worsen if the poll numbers shift a little more towards McWhathisname.

  • I noticed that, too, Mark DeFrancisis! And did you see the way Palin kept referring to “our opponent” during her acceptance speech. That was totally a racist codeword, too, designed to evoke visions of Mike Tyson biting the ear off of Evander Holyfield.

    Utterly despicable.

  • This seems like an overreaction.

    All politics involves such lamentable behavior as you describe here. Both political parties in the US produce things that are questionably true or misleading. Obama is not free from guilt in this regard, as you would seem to have it. It seems that very few saints run for office; and if one did, he/she probably wouldn’t be elected.

    Also, the reason to vote for McCain is certainly not his rhetorical skills; most definitely, the reason to vote for McCain is his policy positions. There is no way to get around this fact: McCain will support justices who believe that Roe v. Wade is bad law. Obama will support justices that believe Roe v. Wade is good law. This is not a giant leap of faith, rather it is quite grounded in reality. Look at the feminists at feministing talk about John McCain.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    Play blind. It suits your party well this year.

  • blackadderiv

    There is a certain irony in writing that “McCain is running one of the most disreputable campaigns in history” (something said of almost every campaign in history) and then citing in support Andrew Sullivan, a guy who wrote no less than 19 posts over the course of a couple of days questioning whether Palin’s son Trig was actually hers, and when that didn’t pan out moved on to more substantive issues, such as whether she’d had an affair with her husbands former business partner.

    On the Bridge to Nowhere business, even the Alaska Democrats acknowledge Palin’s role in killing funding for the bill. Congress may have transformed the funding grant from something specifically for the bridge to something general (on the understanding that it would be used for the bridge, but it was Palin who said the bridge wasn’t going to get the funding. Meanwhile, Obama and Biden both voted in favor of funding the bridge, and against an amendment that would have shifted the money to help rebuild a bridge destroyed by Katrina.

  • Phillip

    Repubs vs. Dems. Speck vs. Beam?

  • My party? I wasn’t even aware the American Taxpayer Party had a candidate this year…

  • Nice move, Blackadder– following the example of the McCain campaign, and doing exactly what I criticize in this post: deflecting the issue to one of no substance. You might have some merit if the Obama campaign had made these allegations, but they most assuredly did not.

    On the other point: I don’t recall either Obama or Biden running ads saying the voted against the Ketchikan bridge.

  • little gal

    “because you have acted as a partisan apologist for the Democrat party.”

    I would add that it would be difficult for any Catholic not to know at this point how he/she should vote due to the recent statements of clarification by the bishops. So why continue criticizing McCain and arguing in favor of Obama? My own bishop’s statement was less strident that some of the others, but his point is clear:


  • Mike McG…

    MM: On the merits, a very strong argument.

    All: I get intensity, deploring ‘them’ and defending ‘us’ to the death. I don’t get the apparent refusal to ‘own’ factual assertions. Does anyone here dispute that McCain et al are seriously misrepresenting Obama’s positions, as MM documented? In what sense does ‘your team does it too’ a response?

    I’m disappointed in what I perceive as an intensification of the animus on this blog. Anyone else find the tone worrisome?

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    little gal,

    Are we reading the same letter? Your prelate refers us to Faithful Citizenship, which leaves the final choice to the prudential judgment of the individual voter, in the light of all of the Church’s teachings and of his/her reading of the whole political situation.

  • MM, I noticed that you failed to acknowledge BA’s point that Alaska Dems said that Palin helped kill the bridge funding.

    Ignoring inconvenient truths might be par for the course in blogdom, but we Catholics should rise above it.

  • Chris: I looked at that link, and it merely stated that Palin turned against the bridge because the federal funds were insufficient– does that conflict with what I said?

  • blackadderiv

    Well let me put it to you this way, MM: When you saw, say, Andrew Sullivan’s post regarding Todd Palin’s former business partner and the speculation about an affair between him and Gov. Palin, what was your reaction? Did you say to yourself, “This sort of rumor mongering a distraction from the substantive issues that this campaign should be about”? Or did you spread the story around to your friends?

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    It’s simple.

    She was for the bridge whenever she ran for governor. As governor, she switched positions only after the whole thing became largely unpopular. And she did not “kill the funding”, but only diverted it to other state projects.

  • Well, Blackadder, you link to the National Review which promotes torture– that came to my mind when I saw the link, but I wasn’t going to mention it because it is entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand. As is your McCainiac tactic of trying to link me even closer to some of Sullivan’s speculation.

  • little gal


    “In the midst of a lengthy political campaign, matters of public policy that are also moral issues sometimes are misrepresented or are presented in a partial or manipulative fashion. While everyone could be expected to know the Church’s position on the immorality of abortion and the role of law in protecting unborn children, it seems some profess not to know it and others, even in the Church, dispute it. Since this teaching has recently been falsely presented, the following clarification may be helpful.

    This teaching has consequences for those charged with caring for the common good, those who hold public office. The unborn child, who is alive and is a member of the human family, cannot defend himself or herself. Good law defends the defenseless. Our present laws permit unborn children to be privately killed. Laws that place unborn children outside the protection of law destroy both the children killed and the common good, which is the controlling principle of Catholic social teaching. One cannot favor the legal status quo on abortion and also be working for the common good.

    This explains why the abortion issue will not disappear and why it is central to the Church’s teaching on a just social order. The Church does not endorse candidates for office, but she does teach the principles according to which Catholics should form their social consciences. The teaching, which covers intrinsic evils such as abortion and many other issues that are matters of prudential judgment, could not be clearer; the practice often falls short because we are all sinners. There is no room for self-righteousness in Catholic moral teaching.”

    Francis Cardinal George.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    What do you think is the purpose of the McCain sex-ed ad?

  • Hey there. I’m new to reading this ‘blog, so I might not be in on some of the in jokes and running gags…. but has Morning’s Minion ever answered a direct yes or no question from BlackAdderIV or anyone else?

  • joseph


    What does it matter? Obama is pro-abortion, pro-infanticide. What does it matter whether him or McCain are caught buying crack from a local drug dealer?

  • David Nickol


    The point about the Bridge to Nowhere line in the speech is that it is misleading. You may quibble about what she actually did regarding the bridge, but the impression the line gives is false, and she keeps repeating it.

    When Palin says “I told Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ on that bridge to nowhere,” it implies Congress said, “Here’s a check for that bridge” and she responded, “No thanks, that’s wasteful spending; here’s your money back.”

    That’s not what happened. Fact is, Alaska took the bridge money, and then just spent it on other projects. Palin did make the final call to kill plans for the bridge, but by the time she did it was no longer a politically viable project. We rule Palin’s claim is Half True.


    Then there’s the line about putting the jet up for sale on e-Bay. It’s accurate (unlike John McCain’s version of the story), but there were no buyers from e-Bay, and the plane was sold through an aviation broker. It’s another half-truth, at best, intended to mislead.

  • jonathanjones02

    These past two weeks or so need to be remembered for the next time someone is accused of cheerleading for the Republican Party.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    And the plane was on e-bay even before Palin got there…

  • Little gal: this is about the eight commandment, not the fifth.

  • Rob

    -The reason why people like me are voting against Obama is because Obama has vowed to be the poster boy for abortions at all stages, open to everyone, world-wide.-

    My best friend is pro-Obama (believe it or not) and I said something similar to him last night. What people don’t want to accept is that this is ultimately a culture war. I think many people, like me, will never vote for Obama, no matter how mad McCain or Palin might look. We don’t care if they are corrupt, mean, greedy. All the possible sins you could reveal will never equal those of Obama. You can’t convince us. Believe me, I wish that there were other candidates to choose from. If the Democrats dropped their abortion stance many people, maybe even me, would “come home” to the party we started out in. We CANNOT vote for this guy. You will never convince us because we stand on the opposite side of a great divide. As Joseph later said, McCain could buy and sell crack and I would still be hedging on my vote.

    You can go on and on about his promises. Hey, I would love for some of the things Obama says to come true. I just lost health care and I have a wife and four kids. We are in deep trouble. But even if Obama has a solid gold plan to save my family from imminent destruction, I will not vote for him and I suspect many are in the same boat with me. We cannot commit evil (Elect a pro-infanticide candidate) in order to accomplish a possible good (social harmony, national health insurance, what have you). You can come back with anything you want about McCain’s evil. I won’t defend him! But his evil is not as great as Obama’s.

    Sure, some posters here would still be against Obama for reasons of inexperience, economic or foreign policy, etc. I take issue with him on some of those things. But they are not what pushes me over to voting Republican (though I am not a registered Republican). Obama might as well be Satan himself as long as he approves of abortion. There is no convincing someone like me. As soon as the Democrats nominate someone who doesn’t condone child-murder, I will eagerly listen to his campaign promises.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Yeah, McCain says he is for judges that will overturn Roe v. Wade. Thus, nothing else matters in this campaign. He can call Obama a reapeated rapist of his daughter Megan. He can say that Michelle Obama stole drugs from a charity for soldiers. He can say that Ms. Palin secretly crafted the campaign finance reform legislation with him in the early 2000s. He can say that Ms. Palin was with him on all of trips to the ME, and thus too personally knows “how to get bin Laden.” He can promise us that there will be more wars. All this should mean nothing.

    You conservative Catholics are disgraceful.

  • Jeremy

    has Morning’s Minion ever answered a direct yes or no question
    … I think so, but you have to read between the lines –
    If he goes on the attack, that means yes.
    If he doesn’t answer, that means no.
    If he invokes ‘codpiece’ or ‘protestant’ while on the attack, that means you really struck a nerve (or said something nice about bush … hard to tell, I’m still learning the language).

  • joseph


    I guess we would be disgraceful if McCain actually did all those things. But, the fact is, that none of those things amount to the millions of innocent children that will brutally die at the hand of doctors, the very people who are supposed to care for them, if Obama is elected. Nor are any of those things nearly as despicable as doing everything in one’s power to make sure that children who survive abortion attempts are left to die. Sorry, there isn’t a balance there.

  • Rob

    Mark, that insult was disgraceful, and beneath you.

  • Don’t we, as Catholics have a primary duty to stand up for the truth?

    Sure, we do.

    But I’m not convinced that the first beneficiaries of this duty need be a political campaign with a paid “truth squad.”

    I am not a fan of McCain’s current campaing strategies, including the staged fainting at every hint of sexism against Gov. Palin. But it’s pretty far down of the list of injustices that are calling out from heaven and earth.

    The parties in the last couple weeks have made clear where they stand on abortion, and what the increased prominence of either party’s candidates will do for the cultural acceptance of abortion. It is undeniable. I wish it weren’t so. I long for the day that the Democratic Party was a real home for pro-lifers. But it isn’t. They have reaffirmed their strong and unequivocal support for Roe v. Wade. They nominated a Catholic pro-choice person for vice president. Their first reaction to the Palin nomination was to criticize her on abortion, and run ads against McCain on abortion.

    They left this opening for the Republicans. Was the Republicans taking advantage of this opening more opportunistic than a reflection of commitment? Perhaps. But the Democrats didn’t even try, except to try to make us thankful that they supported motherhood.

    This stuff matters a lot more than how mean McCain’s ads are.

  • David Nickol

    If Obama/Biden walk amongst the ordinary folk like Jesus, hand out bowls of soup at soup kitchens, and pray publicly, that still will not negate what they say and believe about life and what they have vowed to do about abortion.


    The problem I see with the way this campaign is being waged is that if Obama and Biden did indeed do those things, in all charity and humility, the anti-Obama, pro-life contingent would find some way to discredit praying and feeding the hungry, or at least discredit Obama and Biden as insincere and hypocritical.

    I have no quarrel for anyone who wants to vote against Obama because of his pro-life views. But why it is necessary to defend McCain commercials intended to cast Obama as someone who sexualizes kindergarten children, or why it is necessary to twist oneself into a pretzel defending zingers from Sarah Palin’s speeches bewilders me.

  • Are you really saying that the witness of a vice presdential candidate having welcomed a baby with Down’s Syndrome has less cultural impact than nasty campaign ads?

  • joseph

    Thank you, Mark. I was wondering all of this time what the definition of “conservative Catholic” was. Apparently, it is a label given to anyone who doesn’t support Obama.

    I’m not throwing support in either direction. Have you ever heard of “the lesser of two evils”? Let me explain it to you. Both Obama and McCain are sinners. I’m not voting for a candidate because I support his sanctity. McCain is as much a saint as Obama is, and probably as much of a sinner. Obama have sworn an oath to his consitutents that he will be the champion of abortion like they have never seen before. McCain has sworn to do what he can to make abortion illegal. Abortion has killed almost 40 million innocent children in this country since it became legal. Since the beginning of the Iraq war, it has killed almost 5 million (?) innocent children (not exactly on the same scale of the casualties of war). Whatever sin either of them are engaged in beyond that doesn’t matter. Millions of lives vs. character? You view Obama as a saint, or very close to a Jesus-like figure. Therefore, you automatically assume that anyone who opposes him views McCain as a saint. That is not true. Just because it breaks your heart that Catholics who do not align themselves with the Republican party are voting for a Republican, does not automatically make them a Republican. Sheesh.

  • TeutonicTim


    “Start off talking about examples and words, then turn to attacking republicans because I don’t like them”

  • joseph


    I do not defend McCain in any way for anything. I don’t know the man personally. I don’t even have a television, so I’m not privvy to anyone’s political ads. I wouldn’t care if I was. It’s the same thing every election cycle. There is nothing new, it is modern politics.

    I can’t continue to explain Obama’s position and his priorities on abortion. I can’t continue to explain McCain’s. One of these days, it’s just going to have to sink in for you.

  • Wow. Even FactCheck is hitting McCain for lying about what FactCheck actually said…


  • blackadderiv

    What do you think is the purpose of the McCain sex-ed ad?

    To win votes (or at least get people not to vote for the other guy). Same as every other political ad.

  • Knuckle Dragger

    Obama will collect much more tax revenue in total from our economy through massive tax increases on large and small businesses, and upper income taxpayers. This will be required to pay for his huge social programs. True, he promises tax cuts for 95% of people, but his massive tax increases on business will hurt middle income taxpayers through higher prices and lower wages.

  • Winston D

    BA, it’s hard not to see that answer as obtuse. Yes, the ultimate purpose was to win votes, but the question is how was it going to win votes. And the ad is clearly a cheap distortion, as Douthat noted. I would never vote for Obama because of how he and Biden want to marginalize and/or distort Catholic Social Teaching on most life issues, but the ad was still a cheap shot and fairly seen as a distortion. I think it reflects poorly on McCain’s staff that they thought going forward with this ad was a good idea.

  • Jeremy

    Sorry Knuckle Dragger, but I’m calling this one crap
    massive tax increases on business will hurt middle income taxpayers through higher prices and lower wages.

    This is speculation, especially about lower wages. More importantly, this election must be about more than ‘lower prices for consumers’.

  • joseph


    I agree. It is not important to argue with the VN contributors on their level, which is the worldly level. Anyhow, anything beyond the abortion debate, in which both sides have drawn very specific opposing lines, is mere speculation. If we are basing who we vote for by who plans to spread the most money around, then we are sacrificing our children to Moloch. We aren’t going to build the Kindgom of Heaven on earth, and we shouldn’t be trying to re-build the tower of Babel either. This election is clearly about the innocent lives of children.

  • Knuckle Dragger


    Sorry, but businesses will pass these tax increases on to consumers if they can. They will also hold down wages as much as they can. That’s basic economics. The last thing you want to do in an economic downturn is to raise taxes on anybody.

  • Knuckle Dragger


    I agree with you 100%. I’m just arguing that Obama’s tax policies will end up hurting the people he claims to want to help.

  • Mike McG…

    OK, guys, I know these process questions go over like a lead balloon. But help me out with this one please.

    For some correspondents, legislation prohibiting abortion is so foundational an issue that support for Obama is unthinkable no matter what his positions are on any other issue, large or small.

    For other correspondents, there are a number of critical moral issues that must be weighed and therefore Obama’s position on abortion is not automatically disqualifying.

    So my question is: why does this get reenacted day after day? Surely no one is working under the illusion that s/he is going to convert someone to the opposite position. There is little evidence of interest in sympathetically understanding how someone might arrive at positions different than our own. Quite the reverse, the interest seems to be in casting ‘them’ as moral monsters.

    “Politics is increasingly a world unto itself, inhabited by people convinced of their own moral superiority: conspicuously, the religious right among Republicans; and upscale liberal elites among Democrats. Their agendas are hard to enact because they’re minority agendas. So politicians instinctively focus on delivering psychic benefits. Each side strives to make its political ‘base’ feel good about itself. People should be confirmed in their moral superiority.”

    “Polarization and nastiness are not side effects. They are the game. You feel good about yourself because the other side is so fanatical, misguided, corrupt and dishonest. Because real differences between party programs have narrowed, remaining differences are exaggerated. Drab policy debates become sensational showdowns – one side or the other is ‘destroying’ the schools, the environment or the economy. Every investigation aims to expose the other side’s depravity: One side’s Whitewater becomes the other’s Halliburton.
    Robert J. Samuelson, The Washington Post, Wednesday, June 30, 2004, p. A21.

  • Jeremy

    Thank you Mike.

  • Mike McG,

    Implicit in your dichotomy is that any openneess whatsoever to voting for a pro-choice candidate would lead one to support Obama. In essence, that the only reason one would not support Obama is if one were a single-issue abortion voter, which is a valid, but not required position.

    Some people may be having that argument, but there are other assertions being made here as well:

    1.) Despite the Democratic ticket’s position on Roe v. Wade, it may be a superior choice on the abortion issue alone because it is more likely to be successful in instituting its economic agenda than the Republicans would be in overturning Roe v. Wade, and it would result in fewer abortions.

    2.) Things like nasty ads by the McCain campaign represent a propotional reason to support the Obama campaign in spite of its support of abortion.

    I think one can disagree with these assertions without being a single-issue abortion voter.

  • Thanks for the explanation, Jeremy! It clears up a lot.

  • joseph

    I’m trying to judge whether or not anything I’ve said makes me feel better about myself. I don’t think it has. I feel like crap actually.

  • Winston D

    Mike McG,

    I think the point to be made about VN is that, in theory at least, as Catholics we have a fixed reference point that provides a context for discussion and supercedes our tribal allegiances to one party or the other (I say a pox on both). Certainly that gets harder to see during election season, with Obama’s number 1 cheerleader posting comically one-sided posts, but that’s the goal. You are correct, however, that the discussions are wearily predictable much of the time, particularly MM’s posts.

  • joseph

    I suppose one thing is true. If McCain wins, MM is going to scream “No! Run for your lives!”. If Obama wins, I’m going to scream “No! Run for your lives!”. Then, we’ll bump into each other at Starbucks Wednesday morning ordering a skinny latte.

  • little gal

    I would add to the preceeding comments, the question that MM’s posts/position begs… is he is involved in the Obama campaign on either a paid or unpaid basis? Perhaps he will answer the question.

  • blackadderiv

    BA, it’s hard not to see that answer as obtuse. Yes, the ultimate purpose was to win votes, but the question is how was it going to win votes. And the ad is clearly a cheap distortion, as Douthat noted.

    Campaign ads and statements distorting one’s opponents record are hardly to unique to the McCain campaign. To say this is not to justify the use of such distortions. The selective outrage some people show towards such tactics does get tiresome after a while, however.

  • Franklin Jennings

    It isn’t Obama’s rhetoric, it’s his actions. He voted for infanticide.

    Let me repeat, for those who may not have understood the first time, he voted for infanticide.

    That is an action, a glaring one, and treating this as a matter of rhetoric is just obfuscation in the service of evil.


    You catholics who have sold your souls to the GOP or Democratic parties just disgust me. An extra nickle for the poor or the poor old CEO is worth your soul? I’d have gotten a better deal.

  • Winston D

    BA, we are in complete agreement.

  • S.B.

    A San Diego econ professor writes, and I think more accurately than MM:

    Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin has been criticized for lying in connection with terminating Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” project. This charge, however, reflects widespread misunderstanding as to the nature of the infrastructure budgeting process. While the U.S. Congress did reverse its 2005 decision that had earmarked $223 million for the bridge project, the project itself was not removed from the state’s capital budget. A total of $113 million was budgeted to the bridge when Governor Palin assumed office in 2007.

    Among budgetary options, Palin could have drawn on Federal and State moneys to fund the project fully and move ahead with construction. Alternatively, Palin could have deferred the project to future years, possibly changing the funding allocation. In the end, she chose the radical option of removing the project from the capital budget, precluding any future funding allocations or construction. Her claim to have “stopped the bridge” is entirely truthful.

    To justify her decision, she argued that the bridge project had become too expensive, and that the state should investigate more cost-effective alternatives. In political terms, her decision was viewed as a blow to the state’s Republican establishment, which had strongly championed the project. Without question, the episode buttresses Palin’s reputation as an executive who “stands up to her own party.”

    Palin has offered a bit of misleading rhetoric, however, in discussing the bridge episode. She has stated that terminating the project amounted to telling Congress “thanks, but no thanks.” This suggests that Congress was attempting to force the project on Alaska, when in fact it had given the state discretion. Her decision should instead be viewed as conveying the message “thanks, but no thanks” to Alaska’s Republican Congressional delegation.

    Palin’s rhetoric also gives the impression that terminating the project was tantamount to rejecting a Federal funding offer. The Federal contribution to the bridge budget actually amounted to only $36 million, or less than ten percent of the projected cost of the bridge. By terminating the project, Palin freed these funds for use in other projects, thereby reducing to some extent the need for future earmarks. In this limited sense the money was indeed returned to Washington.

    It is important to note that Palin has worked to overhaul the earmark process, in parallel with Congressional efforts to limit the practice. Alaska’s earmark requests have fallen from 54 last year to 31 this year, with only four new requests. Total requested funding has dropped from $550 million to $200 million. Clearly, Governor Palin has made strong progress in reducing the use of earmarks in Alaska.

  • David Nickol

    Let me repeat, for those who may not have understood the first time, he voted for infanticide


    Do you agree or disagree with the analysis of the infanticide charge on Factcheck.org?


    It is a pretty serious charge. If you disagree with Factcheck.org, could you let me and the others know where?


  • Minion:

    I agree with your post that Catholics should not ignore the truth. But I don’t think Catholics concerned about abortion are indifferent to either words or actions; at this point they seek both (of course, speaking words is a type of action, but that’s the philosophy minor in me).

    The only other thing I wanted to comment was your criticism of McCain not going after the issues in the summer.
    1. Obama had been building a mystique outside of the issues during the entire primary, helped by the Media, that McCain had to tear down if he wanted any chance in November.
    2. It’s the summer; no one cares about issues.

    2 is a hard truth which is sad, but people are tired after a long primary and they want a break in the summer months before the election heats up in the fall. No one wants to hear about economic policy at the beach.

    So I don’t think it’s all that fair to go after McCain (besides, Obama has just been saying Mcain=Bush; that’s hardly an issues based claim) for avoiding issues in the summer. He did the smart thing: make commercials that generally amuse people. His convention speech was more promising for an issue campaign. After all, it’s to McCain’s advantages to get into policies to allow him the opportunity to differentiate himself from the Bush administration, something his campaign seems to be keen on.

    One more thing: it was really poor timing to put this post up right after Obama got caught plagiarizing someone else’s writing. Just sayin’

  • David Nickol

    is he is involved in the Obama campaign on either a paid or unpaid basis?

    Of course, MM might even be Obama. Think about that.

  • Yes I can!

  • David Nickol

    Let me repeat, for those who may not have understood the first time, he voted for infanticide.

    Franklin Jennings,

    As you are clearly indicating yourself, that is a very serious charge. Having argued this point many times before, I am reluctant to go into it again. But could you tell me if you agree or disagree with the analysis of Factcheck.org? It may be that I strongly disagree with you because we are not using the same definitions of infanticide. If that’s the case, there’s nothing to discuss. If you feel that abortion and infanticide are one in the same thing, I disagree, but I am not interested in challenging that. If you feel Factcheck.org has got it wrong, I would like to know in what way.


  • Franklin Jennings

    “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.'”

    There’s your key to Factcheck.org’s obfuscation in support of evil. Now go consider the implications.

    (In case you aren’t aware, the difference between fetus and infant is one of location. Outside the womb, the human being in question is no longer a fetus, but an infant.)

  • David Nickol

    (In case you aren’t aware, the difference between fetus and infant is one of location. Outside the womb, the human being in question is no longer a fetus, but an infant.)

    Franklin Jennings,

    Thanks. Here is how I understand your definition of infanticide. Correct me if I am wrong.

    A woman is in the early stages of pregnancy, before 24 weeks. At this point, no matter what heroic medical treatment it is given, her baby could not survive if the woman prematurely goes into labor or has an abortion. She does have an abortion, and the baby is born alive and lives briefly. It is allowed to die, since there is no way to save it. So it is an infant that has been born (aborted) alive and allowed to die outside its mother’s body. And you consider this infanticide.

    Am I understanding your definition correctly? If so, I am not going to argue with you. I just want it to be understood exactly what Obama is being accused of, since other people might have other definitions.


  • Mike Petrik

    David Nichol,
    Even if one accepts in its entirety the explanation published by factcheck.org, all it would implicate is Obama’s motives — not what he did. In other words, he was unwilling to protect the lives (however limited) of born infants if it subjectively (i.e., in his own mind) might impair abortion rights. Enough said.

  • Franklin Jennings


    Why set it back to 24 weeks? At 24 weeks, there is nothing the medical or nursing staffs are even capable of doing to save the child’s life. It isn’t that they allowed said child to die, they were powerless to stop it. Just a few short weeks later, but long before term, the same inaction is not due to inadequacy, yet even then, Obama is not willing to support such legislation.

    A vote for Obama is a vote for the pro-infanticide candidate. All the websites in the world can’t hide this fact.

  • HA

    Really, David, this is getting old. Why do you think posting the factcheck.org link (for what, the 20th time now?) makes Obama look acceptable to anyone who cares about this issue? And more importantly, why are you muddying the matter by bringing up issues Obama himself never bothered to mention?
    Granted, this time you didn’t haul out the one about how babies who survive abortions were supposedly already protected, despite all evidence to the contrary (something the factcheck.org link author also thinks is worth noting for some reason), so kudos for that. But for all the times you did so, did you happen to find any evidence that Obama himself found the legislation to be redundant? If so, my apologies in advance. But if not, why do you keep harping on it? Likewise, why do you keep bringing up babies who have no hope of surviving? Was that also mentioned by Obama in his rationale for his “no” vote? If not, why make such a big deal of it now?

    Think of it this way: if someone were to say something like “You know, Ms. Kopechne would have probably drowned anyway, so why is everyone making such a fuss?” would you think better of that person? If not, then I’d reconsider your personal mission to save Obama from himself on this issue. It’s not making him look good, and it’s just making you look bad.
    Botom line: whatever Obama thought of infanticide, it’s fair to say that preventing it was not as important to him as protecting abortion. Granted, trying to make him seem like an enthusiastic fan of infanticide is going too far. But the record is plenty bad enough, regardless of how frenetically you keep trying to spin it.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Thye McCain sex-ed ad is racism pure and simple.

    Racism is an intrinsic evil, as Mother Church teaches.

    Only a consequentialist would argue that McCain’s goal of winning ( and the purported promise of anti-Roe judges) legitimates the intrinsic evil involved in this campaign endeavor.

    If you support the campaign in sex-ed ad, you are materially cooperating in evil.

  • little gal

    Speaking of words. From a New Yorker piece on Obama with commentary by Abe Greenwald…

    Here were Obama’s thoughts about the attacks of September 11, four days afterward:

    “The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.”

    “[P]overty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.” Strange, considering our attackers were wealthy and educated, connected and ecstatic. You know, if Obama is going to keep ex-terrorists around, he should at least utilize them. He could have asked Bill Ayers, “Bill, did your ‘failure of empathy’ stem from your impoverished upbringing as the son of the CEO of Commonwealth Edison?”

    Priceless…This one’s a keeper!

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Little ghoul,,

    How you bask in your vitriol. It seems to be the very air you every moment breathe…

  • blackadderiv

    Thye McCain sex-ed ad is racism pure and simple.

    Mark, I think you’re lapsing into self-parody here.

  • little gal


    I gotta say that I can’t believe that you were in seminary based on the things you say…name calling and such.

    Anyway, the article is pretty good. They interviewed folks who knew Obama back when–African American folks. Yes, the article answered questions about who Obama really is.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    You just lack the ability to read the intentional invokation and evocation of the specific images and feelings in this ad, whose interplay yields already packaged meanings in many, many culturo-political contexts in America.

    If you cannot see this, I cannot help you.

  • The far left monkey house is in full rampage, swinging from the rafters, flinging poo at an honorable woman and splattering themselves and each other screeching at the top of their lungs.

    Meanwhile, “the one” floats above the fray, making references to “lipstick on a pig” (isn’t “pig” a code word for “policeman”?). While dispatching female surrogates to take on Governor Palin.

    So Obama will not engage her directly, instead make sexist “lipstick” comments (lipstick was originally used by Phoenecian prostitutes to advertise services with their lips, is this a veiled “ho” reference?)

    Hiding behind women. My kind of Commander in Chief.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Little gal,

    What is the Christian obligation in dealing with our world-neighbors, even our enemies, in the noble labour toward peace?

  • Rob

    Mark needs our prayers, folks.

  • little gal


    Here is another selection from the New Yorker article for you to read. FYI, Toni Preckwinkle is a well known black, liberal alderwomen and I think her comments on Obama are significant.

    “For anyone trying to understand Obama’s breathtakingly rapid political ascent, Preckwinkle is an indispensable witness—a close observer, friend, and confidante during a period of Obama’s life to which he rarely calls attention.

    Although many of Obama’s recent supporters have been surprised by signs of political opportunism, Preckwinkle wasn’t. “I think he was very strategic in his choice of friends and mentors,” she told me. “I spent ten years of my adult life working to be alderman. I finally got elected. This is a job I love. And I’m perfectly happy with it. I’m not sure that’s the way that he approached his public life—that he was going to try for a job and stay there for one period of time. In retrospect, I think he saw the positions he held as stepping stones to other things and therefore approached his public life differently than other people might have.

    On issue after issue, Preckwinkle presented Obama as someone who thrived in the world of Chicago politics. She suggested that Obama joined Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ for political reasons. “It’s a church that would provide you with lots of social connections and prominent parishioners,” she said. “It’s a good place for a politician to be a member.” Preckwinkle was unsparing on the subject of the Chicago real-estate developer Antoin (Tony) Rezko, a friend of Obama’s and one of his top fund-raisers, who was recently convicted of fraud, bribery, and money laundering: “Who you take money from is a reflection of your knowledge at the time and your principles.” As we talked, it became increasingly clear that loyalty was the issue that drove Preckwinkle’s current view of her onetime protégé. “I don’t think you should forget who your friends are,” she said.

    Preckwinkle said, “My view is you have to bring your constituency along with you. Granted, you have to make some tough decisions. Granted, sometimes you have to make decisions that people won’t understand or like. But it’s your obligation to explain yourself and try to do your supporters the courtesy of treating them with respect.

    Ivory Mitchell, who for twenty years has been the chairman of the local ward organization in Obama’s neighborhood—considered the most important Democratic organization on the South Side—was one of Obama’s earliest backers. Today, he says, “All the work we did to help him get where he finally ended up, he didn’t seem too appreciative.”

    Obama seems to have been meticulous about constructing a political identity for himself. He visited churches on the South Side, considered the politics and reputations of each one, and received advice from older pastors. Before deciding on Trinity United Church of Christ, he asked the Reverend Wright about critics who complained that the church was too “upwardly mobile,” a place for buppies.”

    This guy is at best a pol, not the Messiah.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Lil’ gal,

    You did not answer my question.

  • joseph


    Is racism a greater evil than the actual murder of innocent children? What does Holy Mother Church teach about the difference between the two? (Here I go again, talking to the wall)

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    That is not the point, an you should know this.

    Some ‘culture of life’ you are willing to create, in the supposed pursuit of the culture of life.

    Why are you at all amazed at the total failure of your movement?

  • David Nickol

    It is still unclear to me exactly what people mean when they say Obama was pro-infanticide or indifferent to infanticide. I don’t think it is wrong to ask people to be extremely precise when they make such a serious charge, even when I understand that, because Obama is a strong supporter of abortion, they already consider him in favor of murder of the unborn and would never vote for him. I believe abortion and infanticide are two different things, even if they are morally equivalent in the eyes of the Church.

    If by infanticide people mean letting a baby die (not actively killing it) outside the womb when it has no chance of survival because it is not viable, then there is no defense of Obama. I would disagree with that definition, but I am not interested in arguing definitions.

    If by infanticide people mean letting a baby die (or actively killing it) outside the womb when it is viable, then I don’t believe Obama can be charged with being pro-infanticide or indifferent to infanticide, since the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975 already protected viable babies. Consequently, if Obama opposed new laws, since viable babies were already protected, the effect of the new laws could only impact nonviable babies.

    The most serious accusation against Obama, as I understand it, is that he objected to a law that would have required a second doctor to be called in, on an emergency basis, if the original doctor performed an abortion believing the baby was pre-viable, and after the abortion that same doctor suspected that the baby might actually be viable. In opposing the law, Obama did not argue that the baby be allowed to die. Rather, he argued that the first doctor would be obligated to give life-saving care to the baby, and he trusted doctors in that situation to do so.

    Consequently, I conclude, as does the article on Factcheck.org, that accusations of infanticide are legitimate only if by infanticide you mean letting a baby die (outside the womb) that could not be saved. Apparently people find it annoying to hear, but I will repeat that viable babies were protected by law since 1975. (To those who object to the use of viable and nonviable, they are the words in the laws, and what we are talking about is those laws.)

    I deny that I keep bringing this up, since I have responded to a very few of the many, many statements on Vox Nova that Obama is pro-infanticide. But I can see no point in discussing it any further here.

  • lcb

    slight point… But some advanced premie teams have recently broken the 24 week barrier. A few are claiming survival in late 22 and early 23. Obviously this is the most cutting edge around and not standard, but very interesting none the less.

  • blackadderiv

    If you cannot see this, I cannot help you.

    I agree.

  • joseph


    It very much is the point. The only buzzword for justification to vote for a pro-abortion/infanticide candidate that liberal Catholics can come up with is “proportion”. If you are now adding “racism” to the list of other evils that you have applied to the opposition, then surely racism must be weighed against the evil of abortion. Obviously, racism doesn’t hold a candle to abortion.

    My movement? LOL, such flattery. Thank you, no. I suppose you are speaking of the so-called “pro-life” movement? If so, whether it *succeeds* or *fails* (there will never be total success as long as sin is in the world) my conscience will be clear. It’s less of a movement and more of a firm belief that human life begins at conception and ends at natural death. It is doing what little I can to help make the laws recognize this. It is purely a call for justice.

  • joseph


    If it’s unclear to you, then there isn’t an objective bone in your body. You should know by now what your democratic darling voted against in Illinois, and you should know by know what his priorities are if he becomes president. This is no secret. There’s no code to crack. You don’t have to wait until the moon rises to read the writing on the wall. You simply know that it’s there in black and white. Ignorance would not be a valid defense for you if you were questioned by a judge whether you knew these things or not before you stamped “Obama” on your ballot.

  • It’s easy to see where people stand on abortion by noticing how they speak about those who are involved in it. Supporters of abortion make it a point to call the victim a “fetus” rather than a baby–even if the “pre-viable” entity is flailing around in a pan on the operating table. Likewise, the perpetrator is a “doctor” who would certainly render “life-saving care” to any such flailing entity if he were not convinced it was “nonviable.” Barack Obama is not the only one who is obviously indifferent to infanticide.

  • joseph

    Ron, I agree. In fact, I don’t think revamping health care is going to help anything (unless part of that revamping is creating a Health Care Professional Inquisition). I’ve been in the presence of too many doctors and nurses who don’t give a damn about their patients. Just the other night, while watching football at a pub, a group of nurses sat down in close proximity to me and began to audibly (probably deliberately advertising their converstation) about how much they hate their patients. One of them was actually joking about ignoring a distress call from a “problematic” patient… to which they all laughed. One said the greatest advantage of nursing is that she can get drunk in the morning after her shift and no one can judge her for it. Unbelievable. A large part of the problem is the attitude of health care professionals to their patients.

  • Obama is currently running ads saying that McCain will bring about the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

    Three possibilities exists:

    1. Obama is correct, and therefore all MM’s talk about McCain’s position on abortion being inconcequential is incorrect.

    2. Obama is mistaken.

    3. Obama is lying, which MM, according the principles laid out here about the truth and the importance of applying them consistenty, would be bound to condemn.

    Charity demands allowing the possibility of 2, but I would think even then one would need to offer a correction if one is dedicated to the truth.

    It seems this is more consequential then the details of a sex education program or when Sarah Palin started opposing the Bridge to Nowhere.

  • David Nickol


    I don’t see any facts in your message, but I do see a personal attack on me.

    Here is my question. Does infanticide mean, to you, allowing a baby to die when it is aborted and is alive outside the mother’s womb, but the abortion has taken place at such an early stage of pregnancy that medical intervention could not save the baby. It doesn’t seem a difficult question to answer.

  • David Nickol

    Likewise, the perpetrator is a “doctor” who would certainly render “life-saving care” to any such flailing entity if he were not convinced it was “nonviable.” Barack Obama is not the only one who is obviously indifferent to infanticide.


    The Obama vote that I think, we are discussing (these discussions always seem to be short on facts) is one in which he objected to bringing in a second doctor when the first doctor (the abortionist) thought he was dealing with a pre-viable baby (and therefore had no second doctor present) but discovered after the abortion that he might be dealing with a viable baby. Under the circumstances the law would have required him to call in a second doctor. Obama’s position was that the first doctor (the abortionist) would give life-sustaining treatment to the baby, and no second doctor was necessary.

    Now, you are clearly operating from the belief that anyone who performs an abortion is simply intent on murder. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you are correct. Does it make sense to have a law that tells a murder in the process of committing a murder to call in a second murderer to save the victim? The law did not require the abortionist to call in a pro-life doctor. Consequently, if he was intent on murdering the baby, he could call in a colleague and they could both murder the baby. So it seems to me from your point of view, the law Obama voted against was a joke.

    Now, I could see that Obama could be blamed if the law had required a pro-life doctor present at every abortion to step in and try to save the baby were it born alive. But that is not what the proposed law was.

  • Mark — if the McCain sex-ed ad is racism pure and simple, would you agree also that the Obama ad with the photo of McCain in dorky glasses with a rubicks cube and disco ball, designed to show how old he is, is ageism, pure and simple?

    Or that the fact that Obama’s female staffers are paid 83 cents on the dollar, when compared with his male staffers, is sexism pure and simple?

  • joseph


    I’m the only one making the personal attacks here… riiiiggghhhttt. You’re too caught up in acting surprised that the McCain camp is approving attack ads, now you are doing it with those commenting in this thread. The pot may be right about calling the kettle black, but the pot is black too. Comprende?

    To answer your question, how does one determine “for definite” at what age a baby is viable or not if there are no attempts to keep it alive?

    I’m posting a link. Hopefully it isn’t blocked by the moderators like it was the last time.

    David: A woman is in the early stages of pregnancy, before 24 weeks. At this point, no matter what heroic medical treatment it is given, her baby could not survive if the woman prematurely goes into labor or has an abortion.

    Here is a case of a survivor at 21 weeks! There are more cases of pre-24 week survivors as well. So, your statement is false. Yes, it is infanticide. Your logic can be extended to a person who is gravely injured in an accident. A doctor cannot say, “Leave him in the linen closet, he’s going to die anyway. I guarantee it”. Your logic supports the god-complex in health care.

  • David,

    Where did Obama list this as his reason for opposing the law? Could you please site that?

    My understanding is that Obama opposed the law because he was concerned about it undermining Roe v. Wade, not because it was redundant or useless.

    But even accepting your explanation, I don’t think supporting this law requires anyone to believe that abortionists are murders. It’s a recognition that their interests and the interests of the baby are in conflict in this case, so it may be prudent to have some protection. It acknowledges that doctors, like cops, soldiers, Wall Street bankers, et al, are humans and suspect to temptation and respond to incentives. In the case of a botched abortion resulting in a baby coming out alive, there would be a tremendous incentive for the doctor to cover it up. The law counters that incentive, just like regulations for police interrogations, laws of war, and financial regulations.

    And your suggestion that it should require a “pro-life” doctor would never fly, because a real pro-life doctor would not formally cooperate with an actual abortion, so it would effectively be a ban on abortion, which I’m quite sure Obama would not support and the Supreme Court would reject.

    I think calling Obama “pro-infanticide” obscures more than it illuminates, and the pro-life movment should hod itself to high standards of honesty, but I don’t think that’s the big story here.

    And if the big problem with it is that it would make abortion needlessly more onerous, what, from a Catholic perspective, is so bad about that?

    Again, I don’t think labels like “pro-infanticide” are terribly helpful. But what is even less helpful is when supporters make excuses for their candidates instead of hlding them accountable.

    Obama’s vote on the Born Alive Act is unconscionable. This is a bigger deal than that some people on the internet go a bit overboard in pointing that out.

  • joseph

    Again, I don’t think labels like “pro-infanticide” are terribly helpful.

    I agree with this statement only because it opens up the opportunity for those who support Obama to equivocate. Whether one believes that Obama actively supported infanticide in Illinois or not should not interfere with the fact that his personal goals for promoting both nationally and internationally, funding, are freeing all restrictions of abortion at all stages of unborn life are heinous and objectively the greatest evil proposed by either candidate running for president.

  • David Nickol

    Here is a case of a survivor at 21 weeks! There are more cases of pre-24 week survivors as well. So, your statement is false. Yes, it is infanticide. Your logic can be extended to a person who is gravely injured in an accident. A doctor cannot say, “Leave him in the linen closet, he’s going to die anyway. I guarantee it”. Your logic supports the god-complex in health care.


    As I understand it, you are basing your charge of infanticide on the inability to know for certain whether a prematurely born or aborted baby can live. To that I can only say that it’s a medical judgment made all the time in maternity wards. Doctors and parents must weigh the benefits and risks of attempting to keep an extremely low birthweight baby alive. It happens all the time in hospitals that it is determined that a baby born alive, very prematurely, cannot survive, or that it probably can’t survive and the attempt at rescue would require heroic measures that only prolonged the baby’s suffering.

    Absolutely the logic can be extended to a person who is gravely injured in an accident or gravely ill from a disease like cancer. Once again, decisions are made in hospitals all the time whether treatment of someone very likely on the verge of death would be worthwhile or futile.

  • If my hospital were “all the time” weighing the benefits vs. risks (of what, the baby dying?) of keeping my newborn baby alive, I’d find another hospital.

  • Mark DeFrancisis


    Why does a campaign take a proposal to remind kids simply that their private parts are private and that strangers are to be dealt with in caution (the same directives are right out of “Protecting God’s Children” by the way (I should know, as I taught over 40 sessions , to over 1000 volunteers/workers in my diocese)) and misrepresent/smear into a desire/directive to teach poor innocent kindergartners “comprehensive sex education even before they know how to read?

    More crucially, why at the climax of the ad do we have a black and white scene of little darling (predominantly white) children immediately superseded by a full color photo of Obama smiling, but with his eyes averted down diagonally?

    Someone constructed this intentionally in such a way, throwing together these images and falsities. Now, what were they trying to do?

  • joseph


    Then your position is clear. Doctors (or family members like Schaivo’s husband) are the ultimate authorities on whose life is viable at any stage. They are not there to try and save the critically injured. Judgment rests solely on them as to whether someone should be provided treatment, or someone should be left to die. That’s good. Time to get in touch with the Church’s teaching, my friend. Based on your comments, it’s clear that you are an advocate of the Living Will. If you are Catholic, my only recommendation for you is to have this conversation with a priest.

  • Mark,

    1.) As joseph said, to win the election. I don’t like the ad. I don’t think anyone on this thread has defended it or expressed any enthusiasm.

    But it’s what happens in election. It’s not the first exaggerating ad, and not the last.

    In fact, just up the thread MM is writing that Sarah Palin advocated us getting in a shooting war with Russia. I think that is an oversimplification of her position. But that’s what happens.

    2.) How do you think the ad would run if Obama were white? I have not seen the particular ad, but I think if in seeing that you’re seeing something like, “Obama will rape your children, just like other black men,” as you seem to be implying, then I think that says more about you than it does the ad.

  • joseph

    It would be worthy to note that folks like David are advocates of government-run health care (I’m not completely opposed to it, but I am if people like David are in charge). If you have any questions about what would happen in this country, in our moral state, look to David’s comments.

  • David Nickol

    t would be worthy to note that folks like David are advocates of government-run health care (I’m not completely opposed to it, but I am if people like David are in charge).


    Another attack against me, personally, rather than what I am saying. Have I ever, in any of these discussions, or any other discussions on Vox Nova, expressed an opinion about government-run health care? If so, please quote it. If not, please admit you are inventing positions I have never taken in order to discredit me.

  • joseph

    Sorry to distract from your point of view that you agree and advocate the Living Will. I won’t do it again. Scratch my last comment lest it divert attention from the fact that David has aligned himself with a position that is contrary to Church teaching.

  • David Nickol

    I won’t do it again. Scratch my last comment lest it divert attention from the fact that David has aligned himself with a position that is contrary to Church teaching.


    And that position is? And where have I ever said anything about the living will?

  • joseph

    Read through the thread, do your research on the Living Will, then talk to me, baby.

  • David Nickol

    If my hospital were “all the time” weighing the benefits vs. risks (of what, the baby dying?) of keeping my newborn baby alive, I’d find another hospital.

    Then your position is clear. Doctors (or family members like Schaivo’s husband) are the ultimate authorities on whose life is viable at any stage. They are not there to try and save the critically injured.

    Victor and Joseph,

    I don’t have the time to go into it here, but please familiarize yourself with Catholic medical ethics and such concepts as futile care, heroic measures, and proportionate/disproportionate care. Catholic medical ethics would always rule out abortion, but in the case of a baby born prematurely and or with severe disabilities, or with a very sick individual or an accident victim, the medical team in charge, together with the family, must make a decision about what kind of medical care should be given.

    Here’s a capsule summary of the issues:

    Proportionate treatment (or proportionate means), which is also mandatory, is any medical action that meets all of the following three criteria: (1) It has a reasonable chance of curing the patient or assisting with the cure; (2) it does not carry a significant risk of death; and (3) it does not, in and of itself, present an excessive burden. For example, a sterile blood transfusion during surgery would be considered proportionate treatment, as the risk and burden involved are relatively low compared with its curative potential.

    Disproportionate means, on the other hand, are not mandatory. If any treatment would present an excessive burden—in terms of finances, emotions, religious beliefs, or the pain of the procedure—or fail to offer a reasonable chance of curing the patient, it is optional. Withdrawing disproportionate treatment is an act that, according to Dr. Kathleen Foley, former chief of pain service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, “respects [the] patient’s autonomous decision not to be battered by medical technology” (“Competent Care for the Dying Instead of Physician-Assisted Suicide,” New England Journal of Medicine). There comes a time when continued attempts to cure are neither compassionate, wise, nor medically sound.


    Or see this from “Declaration on Euthanasia” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

    However, is it necessary in all circumstances to have recourse to all possible remedies? In the past, moralists replied that one is never obliged to use “extraordinary” means. This reply, which as a principle still holds good, is perhaps less clear today, by reason of the imprecision of the term and the rapid progress made in the treatment of sickness. Thus some people prefer to speak of “proportionate” and “disproportionate” means. In any case, it will be possible to make a correct judgment as to the means by studying the type of treatment to be used, its degree of complexity or risk, its cost and the possibilities of using it, and comparing these elements with the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources.


  • HA

    David, Where did Obama list this as his reason for opposing the law? Could you please site that?
    An excellent question. Indeed, the factcheck.org article David is so fond of linking mentions Obama’s claim that he would have been willing to sign nearly-identical born-alive protection that better safeguarded abortion availability (though, as also noted, the facts indicate something else altogether).
    If such protection was unnecessary given existing statutes, or else interfered with an abortionist’s seemingly sacred right to determine whether the fetus he had moments before set out to destroy was now too “viable” for him to finish the job, why would Obama have been in favor of it? Clearly the redundancy and viable/non-viable rationales David is doling out after the fact, on website after website, had little relevance then and now to what was on Obama’s mind.
    Perhaps David can therefore understand why people here suspect he is merely grasping at whatever looks like a fig leaf.

  • joseph

    So, the Church’s teaching was not opposed to Terry Schiavo having her feeding tube removed. Also, the Church agrees that a child that survives abortion should be left to die if the doctor determines that she is not worth saving. Interesting. I see. Thanks for clarifying that, David.

  • David Nickol

    Read through the thread, do your research on the Living Will, then talk to me, baby.


    I have never brought up the topic of living wills, but you wish to imply I have some position on them (without actually saying what it is). You state that I have aligned myself with a position that is against Church teaching (without saying what that position is). And then you put the burden on me to disprove your charges.

    I have clearly acknowledged that Obama is strongly pro-abortion. My only point is that he is not “pro-infanticide,” according to the commonly held understanding of what constitutes infanticide. I have gone so far as to say I will not argue with those who want to define infanticide differently. I have not argued that anyone should vote for Obama. I have not defended abortion. My sole point has been that the evidence does not support the accusation that Obama is “pro-infanticide.” For taking that position, you have seen fit to attack me personally and attribute to me things I have not said. Why you feel it is necessary to go to such lengths to discredit someone who argues Obama is not “pro-infanticide” I have no idea. But there is clearly no point in continuing this or any other discussion with you.

  • joseph

    Tsk, tsk, tsk, David. You haven’t read the thread. Your responses implied an agreement with the Living Will. You, my friend, have made an attempt to reconcile Church teaching with the idea that doctors and family members (like Schiavo’s husband) have the right to decide when someone is *worth* saving. You also ignored the fact that there have been premies before 24 weeks that have survived and are healthy, thereby putting your doubt that allowing children who have survived abortion to die is truly infanticide. But, it matters not. Those are your positions, so be it. You’ll defend them at all costs, even at the expense of logic.

  • David Nickol

    from Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Fourth Edition
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

    The truth that life is a precious gift from God has profound implications for the question of stewardship over human life. We are not the owners of our lives and, hence, do not have absolute power over life. We have a duty to preserve our life and to use it for the glory of God, but the duty to preserve life is not absolute, for we may reject life-prolonging procedures that are insufficiently beneficial or excessively burdensome. Suicide and euthanasia are never morally acceptable options.

    The task of medicine is to care even when it cannot cure. Physicians and their patients must evaluate the use of the technology at their disposal. Reflection on the innate dignity of human life in all its dimensions and on the purpose of medical care is indispensable for formulating a true moral judgment about the use of technology to maintain life. The use of life-sustaining technology is judged in light of the Christian meaning of life, suffering, and death. Only in this way are two extremes avoided: on the one hand, an insistence on useless or burdensome technology even when a patient may legitimately wish to forgo it and, on the other hand, the withdrawal of technology with the intention of causing death.

  • David Nickol

    Excerpted from On not ‘striving officiously’

    The statement quotes from the joint submission made by the two groups of Bishops [Church of England House of Bishops and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales] in 2004 to the Select Committee of the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill:

    “Doctors do not have an overriding obligation to prolong life by all available means. Treatment for a dying patient should be ‘proportionate’ to the therapeutic effect to be expected, and should not be disproportionately painful, intrusive, risky, or costly, in the circumstances. Treatment may therefore be withheld or withdrawn, though such decisions should be guided by the principle that a pattern of care should never be adopted with the intention, purpose or aim of terminating the life or bringing about the death of a patient. Death, if it ensues, will have resulted from the underlying condition which required medical intervention, not as a direct consequence of the decision to withhold or withdraw treatment.”

    In some sections of the media the position of the Church of England vis-à-vis the withholding or withdrawing of care had been contrasted with what the commentators thought was the position of the Catholic Church, characterised as outright opposition to the withdrawal or withholding of care in any medical situation.

    In fact the Bishops’ joint statement sets out with great clarity what is the understanding of the Catholic Church, as it has developed (but not significantly changed) from the criterion of “ordinary and extraordinary means” proposed by Pope Pius XII. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it like this:
    “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘overzealous’ treatment.”

    That this is the understanding and teaching of the Church is often not recognised in wider society: what also goes unnoticed is the degree of consensus that exists between this approach rooted in Catholic tradition and those to be found both within medicine and within other religious traditions.

  • douglasdjohnson

    As the legislative director for National Right to Life, I would like to try to shed some light on Barack Obama’s actual record on the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA). Some of the postings by Mr. Nickol above confuse this bill with other more complicate legislation. This is a confusion that some Obama operatives have deliberately engendered, as one of their multiple strategies to obscure the most damning aspects of his record.

    This is just a summary. A detailed presentation — including links to the actual bills at issue (each bill is only three sentences long), and to other primary documents –is found in a point-counterpoint White Paper issued by NRLC on August 28, here: http://www.nrlc.org/ObamaBAIPA/WhitePaperAugust282008.html

    As an Illinois state senator, from 2001-2003, Obama led the opposition to the Illinois BAIPA. The bill, only three sentences long, simply recognized any infant who was completely expelled from the mother, and alive, as a legal person. Obama was the chairman who presided over a March 13, 2003 committee meeting at which he killed an amended version of the bill that was virtually identical to the federal BAIPA that had been enacted the previous year without a dissenting vote in either house of Congress. (The complete text appears at the bottom of this posting.) From 2004 until a few weeks ago, Obama insisted falsely that the state and federal bills were very different, a claim swallowed unskeptically by some protective Chicago newspapers (which the Obama operation then cited for years as “proof” of the claim).

    On August 11, 2008, we released recently uncovered documents that proved that Obama had misrepresented the state bill. When Obama was asked about our assertion in a televised interview on August 16, 2008, he said (three times) that we were “lying.” After an investigation, Annenberg’s independent FactCheck.org concluded: “Obama’s claim is wrong . . . The documents from NRLC support the group’s claims that Obama is misrepresenting the contents of SB 1082 [the 2003 Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act].”

    So why did Obama oppose the BAIPA, and why he so persistently misrepresent the content of the bill?

    Obama explained in 2001, and has never recanted, that he opposed this bill because he believed it was unconstitutional to define a “previable fetus” to be a legal person – even though the bill only applied if the baby had achieved “complete expulsion or extraction from its mother,” and was alive.

    I am a critic of Roe v. Wade -– but even among persons who defend Roe v. Wade, most consider that ruling to confer a right to terminate the lives of unborn humans inside the womb, and do not believe that it diminishes the legal status of a baby who is fully born. (Indeed, a bill virtually identical to the one that Obama opposed passed the U.S. Senate 98-0.) Yet, there really are some people who believe that Roe v. Wade goes further, and requires that a “previable fetus” (Obama’s term) who is the subject of an abortion must remain classified as a non-person no matter where that “previable fetus” is located. In this vision, the so-called “previable fetus” who happens to be outside the mother is still in the process of being aborted, and that entire process (which Obama regards as constitutionally protected) will end only with the death of the newborn. By his actions and his explanations of those actions, Barack Obama showed himself to be among those who hold this expansive vision of the “right to abortion.” In Obama’s view, to declare the fully born and living but “previable” human to be a legal person does indeed interfere with “abortion” and does indeed conflict with the full and proper application of “Roe v. Wade.”

    Thus, in Obama’s view, even a live birth is not enough to confer “human rights,” in the abortion context at least. If not then, when? At the August 16, 2008, Saddleback Forum, when Pastor Rick Warren asked Sen. Obama, “At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?”, Obama responded that “answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.” In a Sept. 7 interview, Obama further explained that it was a “theological question.”

    I think it is not just a theological question, and it is not a merely theoretical question. In testimony on the legislation, one nurse testified regarding “induced-labor abortions” performed at the hospital which employed her: “It is not uncommon for a live aborted babies to linger for an hour or two or even longer. At Christ Hospital one of these babies once lived for almost an entire eight-hour shift. Last year alone, of the 13 babies that I am aware of who were aborted at Christ Hospital, at least four lived between 1-1/2 to 3 hours, two boys and two girls.” The nurse testified that another aborted baby “was left to die on the counter of the Soiled Utility Room wrapped in a disposable towel. This baby was accidentally thrown in the garbage, and when they later were going through the trash to find the baby, the baby fell out of the towel and on to the floor.” Another nurse testified that she “happened to walk into a ‘soiled utility room’ and saw, lying on the metal counter, a fetus, naked, exposed and breathing, moving its arms and legs.”

    Where these human persons, worthy of protection by law? Or were they merely the products of not-yet-completed abortions?

    Consider the full implications of the suggestion that “infanticide” can only be committed against a baby with the lung capacity for long-term survival. If that were true, then it would not have been “infanticide” if, midway through the eight-hour shift referred to by the nurse above, an abortionist had walked up to the struggling baby and hit him on the head with a hammer. The abortionist would merely have been completing the abortion, not committing “infanticide,” since after all, the baby was “previable,” under this bizarre construct. Indeed, under the Obama doctrine that it is unconstitutional to define what he called a “previable fetus” as a person, even when completely outside the mother, it would be impossible for any overt act of violence that might be committed against such a living newborn human to be considered a homicide.

    It is true that the FactCheck.org analyst, after affirming that we had our facts straight, asserted that “What we can say is that many other people – perhaps most – think of ‘infanticide’ as the killing of an infant that would otherwise live.” This claim about what “many” or “most” people supposedly think constitutes “infanticide” is not a fact, but an opinion, and one offered without any backup. Apparently the FactCheck analyst might herself agree with the position articulated by state Senator Obama, that a “previable fetus” (his term) should not be considered a legally protected human being even when he or she was completely born. But I think that “most” people would believe that the little baby, alive and squirming on the counter, is a human person and ought to receive legal protection and care. After all, no member of Congress in 2002 opposed the federal BAIPA, which explicitly affirmed full legal protection for every live-born human “at any stage of development.”

    Obama’s commitment to defend the practice of abortion without qualification was so absolute that it led him to reflexively view the issue of babies born alive during abortions through the prism of his concept of Roe v. Wade, and worse, to conclude that a breathing, squirming, fully born pre-viable human baby is still covered by Roe v. Wade. But when he ran for higher office (U.S. Senate) in 2004, he realized how difficult that position would be to defend in the world outside the halls of the Illinois Senate. That is when he began to misrepresent the contents of the bill that he had opposed.

    Here’s the entire text of the bill that Obama voted against, and killed in the committee he chaired, on March 13, 2003.

    Douglas Johnson
    Legislative Director
    National Right to Life Committee
    Washington, D.C. 20004
    Legfederal // at // aol-dot-com

  • digbydolben

    Joseph, “JB,” “little gal,” “Feddie,” and all of you folks who relentlessly turn every single discussion regarding this election into a heated shouting match regarding abortion–a shouting match, I might add, that does absolutely NOTHING to stop abortions–I want to make an honest, charitable request of you. Please go here:


    …and read this young man’s discussion of the “abortion issue.” Please understand, however, before you do, and before you start putting “comments” on his blog, that he’s as deeply committed a “Christian” as you’ll ever be able to find. As a matter of fact, his respect and consideration of his interlocutors puts EVERYBODY on this blog to shame, including me.

    Just read it, and then maybe you won’t be so absolutely convinced that abortion is so cut-and-dry an issue for “Christians.”

  • digbydolben

    As a matter of fact, I think it’s so important for you to be able to read it that I’m providing another way of getting to it:


  • little gal


    Since this issue is being discussed in the context of Catholic teaching and you are either nonpracticing or someone who has rejected the faith altogether,I don’t see the point of discussing this issue with you at all. Given the emotional tone of your post(use of upper case letters on the internet= shouting) , I recommend that you take a little Ativan…

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Ghoulishness knows no bounds.

  • little gal


    You must be 5 yrs. old with all of the name calling you engage in.

  • digbydolben

    “little gal,” you are truly a horrible person, an obvious sectarian bigot. Do you ACTUALLY think it’s a “Catholic” position to refuse to dialogue with somebody who is Christian, but not necessarily of your sect, and who is equally as much disturbed as anyone else by the phenomenon of abortion?

    I repeat, you are a BIGOT, like many of the others here. (And I DO mean to “shout” it!)

  • As a note, Mr Douglas Johnson’s comments were accidentally placed in the spam filter. His comment actually appeared early, but so that people would notice it, I bumped it up in the thread. My apologizes to Mr. Johnson for not catching it sooner.

  • I would like to ask Mr. Johnson, since he represents the NRLC, why they invite speakers like Karl Rove, who conspired with Jack Abramoff to lobby for people engaged in forced abortion and sex slavery.

  • little gal

    Is it possible to place the name calling comments of Mark and Digby in the spam filter? As a matter of fact, why not place them there too ?

    [The spam filter operates independently and uses its own criteria to attempt to determine what is spam. – M.Z.]

  • little gal

    “The spam filter operates independently and uses its own criteria to attempt to determine what is spam. – M.Z.”

    Kinda like Hal in the 2001 Space Oddyssey?

  • David Nickol


    Your message was very helpful in clearing up some of the issues that have been raised. In trying to explain why I believe Obama is not open to the charge of being pro-infanticide or indifferent to infanticide, I have been maintaining that in Illinois, viable born-alive infants were already protected by the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975. Consequently, in Illinois, before the BAIPA, to allow a viable infant, born or aborted, to die from neglect, or to hit it with a hammer (to use your example) would already have been illegal long before Obama was in the legislature.

    Consequently, the charge of infanticide against Obama relates to what he did or did not do regarding previable infants born alive.

    I believe the very disturbing allegations you describe in your message are basically from the testimony of Jill Stanek. It is my understanding that Stanek’s accusations were reported to legal authorities in Illinois, investigated, and could not be substantiated. It has been argued by some that the authorities were powerless to act against such alleged abuses because the nonviable infants were not persons under the law, However, a spokesperson from the Illinois Department of Public Health is on record as saying that Stanek’s allegations were taken seriously and would have constituted illegal behavior on the part of Christ Hospital if true, but the investigation was unable to substantiate the charges.

    So it appears to me the case against Obama is that he did not vote for a law whose alleged purpose was to protect nonviable infants from mistreatment that there was no solid evidence was occurring.

    The standard treatment for nonviable infants born or aborted alive is “comfort care” or palliative care. I very much doubt that if hospitals or abortion clinics were dealing with born alive infants by hammering them to death rather than allowing them to die with comfort care, legal and medical authorities would stand by, wring their hands, and say, “There’s nothing we can do. They’re not persons.” It is just not credible. But suppose live-born infants were actually being mistreated. Would it have been impossible to craft a law that mandated appropriate care for all such infants? Why was it necessary to have a law that changed the definition of “person” in all existing laws and regulations? Isn’t that an extremely indirect approach to protecting infants born alive as the result of abortion? It is not difficult to see why anyone who was pro-choice would be suspicious of the real motives of those who proposed such a law.

    There is a question that I have not seen an answer to, but you should be in a position to answer it. Since BAIPA does not itself spell out standards for proper treatment of nonviable, born-alive infants, by defining them as legal persons, in order to protect them from the kind of abuse described or imagined, there must be other laws that now come into play as a result of BAIPA that do mandate proper treatment. Can you tell us what those laws are and what abortion clinics and hospitals must do now in the care of previable born-alive infants that was not the case before BAIPA?

    I note that the BAIPA as passed by Illinois in 2005 has the following provisions:

    24 (c) Nothing in this Section shall be construed to affirm,
    25 deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right
    26 applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any
    27 point prior to being born alive, as defined in this Section.
    28 (d) Nothing in this Section shall be construed to affect
    29 existing federal or State law regarding abortion.
    30 (e) Nothing in this Section shall be construed to alter
    31 generally accepted medical standards.

    I am not a legislator or a lawyer, but it appears to me that (d) and (e) pretty much make it the case that BAIPA defines previable, born-alive infants as persons, but changes nothing regarding abortion or medical practice.

    We all know that it is the strategy of the pro-life movement to chip away at abortion rights bit by bit, and of course there is nothing illegitimate about that tactic (although of course it angers the pro-choice groups). It does seem to me that it was perfectly reasonable of Obama to view the BAIPA as yet another tactic to undermine abortion rights. The fact that the federal version passed unanimously is largely due, I think, to the fact that the pro-choice senators and congressional representatives concluded that, aside from reaffirming what was already mandated by law, there would be no actual consequences of passing it. Representative Jerry Nadler, about as liberal a congressman as one can imagine (and my representative) characterized it as a “belt and suspenders” approach. From what I have been able to determine reading the positions of various medical associations on the Internet, it appears that nobody believes the law mandates any changes in the way neonates should be treated.

    In reading the transcripts of the debates in the Illinois Legislature on this and other bills Obama opposed, one doesn’t get the impressions that any of these issues were considered other than routine by the people debating them. No one in the legislature speaks with any passion, and no one challenges what Obama is saying when he articulates his position. Scant news coverage was given to these matters at the time, either. It was business as usual in the Illinois Legislature, and now it is being blown up to try to make Obama seem like a monstrous baby killer.

    No one can deny that Obama is one of the staunches supporters of abortion rights who has ever run for president, and so this infanticide charge bewilders me, since morally speaking, from the pro-life point of view, an abortion of a previable baby is just as much killing if it dies instantaneously in the womb as if it lingers hours outside the womb, or even if it is deliberately killed outside the womb. Nevertheless, I think everyone, pro-life and pro-choice, could agree that a previable baby that survives briefly is entitled to palliative care and must not be deliberately killed or in any way mistreated. I believe that if there had been legislation to mandate appropriate care for previable infants born alive, Obama would not have hesitated to support it. Instead, the BAIPA was a bill that redefined person in all existing laws and regulations in the state, but did not in itself say anything about how born-alive infants should be cared for. Consequently, I think it is simply insupportable to claim that in voting against the bill, Obama was being indifferent to infanticide.

    Basically, Obama made a political mistake in not seeing that while BAIPA was indeed an attempt to chip away at abortion rights, its actual impact would be nil, and it was the kind of legislation that he should have supported because his opposition could be used to make him look bad if he opposed it, and the fight to protect abortion rights did not require supporting it.

  • douglasdjohnson

    Mr. Nickol:

    You raise a number of issues. Some of them I think are entirely beside the point, but I will try to address a few.

    As indicated in my earlier posting, more than one nurse collaborated the accounts of how babies born alive during induced-labor abortions were being treated. Two nurses, Jill Stanek and Allison Baker, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary subcommittee at the first hearing on the federal bill. Their testimony was found credible by the Judiciary Committe and is referred to as such in the official committee report, which was issued when the committee approved the bill on a vote of 22-1. I would invite any readers here to read the transcript of the testimony and reach their own judgement. It is here:

    The House Judiciary Committe reports on the federal legislation also explained other compelling justifications for clearly establishing the “personhood” of all live-born humans, including those born alive duirng abortions. The 2001 report can be downloaded from our website here:

    The purpose of the legislation was not to spell out exactly how babies are to be treated in this or that situation, but to make it clear that all live-born humans are to be treated as human persons, and treated the same, regardless of whether they achieved live-born status during an abortion.

    There have been many reports over the years, in diverse locations, of babies being alive during abortions and being treated in ways very different from babies who are spontaneously born prematurely, including credible reports of overt acts of post-birth violence. However, my abortionist-with-the-hammer hypothetical was cited to focus the mind on the legal principle involved: what is the status of this human entity who has been born alive during an abortion, but who — due to insufficient lung development, injury, or other reasons — has a very limited lifespan? Here, it seems to me, you go to great lengths to dilute or put a gloss on Obama’s quite clear statements that he believed it was unconstitutional (under Roe v. Wade) to define what he called the “previable fetus” as a person, in the context of an abortion, even though he understood very well that the bill applied that status after the baby was completely separated from the mother, and alive.

    That was a radical stance — articulated by NARAL against the federal bill in 2000, but supported by only 15 members of the U.S. House that year.
    When the federal bill came up the second time, in the subsequent Congress, not a single member of either house voted against it, although it clearly recognized (for federal law purposes) any live-born human “at any stage of development” as a legal person. But Obama never budged from his position.

    I am not going to get into a discussion of various provisions of the bill enacted in Illinois in 2005 because it is irrelevant — Obama had no role in shaping that bill, because he had gone to Congress. But in 2003, he had control of the legislation — he was the committee chairman. He did not propose clarifications — the bill was already plenty clear. Rather, he agreed to the sponsor’s request to make a minor change to make it virtually identical to the federal law — and then he led all the committee’s Democrats in voting it down. (I tried to include the actual text of the bill iln my earlier posting — I will try again below.)

    That is why Stuart Taylor, a respected (and “pro-choice”) analyst, wrote in National Journal this week, “Obama’s record as an Illinois state senator can be read as suggesting that he may have a more sweeping vision of abortion rights than any of his current Senate colleagues.”

    We explore the implcations of Obama’s reasoning in our August 28 White Paper, titled “Barack Obama’s Actions and Shifting Claims on the Protection of Born-Alive Aborted Infants — and What They Tell Us About His Thinking on Abortion,” which is here:

    Douglas Johnson
    Legislative Director
    National Right to Life Committee
    Washington, D.C.

    Here is the full text of the bill that Obama voted against and killed in the committee he chaired on March 13, 2003 — a bill that he insists, to this day, was a threat to “abortion rights” in his view:

    AN ACT concerning infants who are born alive. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly:

    Section 5. The Statute on Statutes is amended by adding Section 1.36 as follows: (5 ILCS 70/1.36 new)

    Sec. 1.36. Born-alive infant.

    (a) In determining the meaning of any statute or of any rule, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative agencies of this State, the words “person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual” include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.

    (b) As used in this Section, the term “born alive”, with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after that expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.

    (c) Nothing in this Section [the bill] shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being born alive as defined in this Section.

    Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect upon becoming law.

  • David Nickol

    Or, put much more briefly . . . .

    Since viable infants, born alive, were already protected under the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, if nonviable infants, born alive, were being mistreated in any way, why did the legislature not craft a new law, or amend the 1975 law, to specify appropriate care for nonviable infants born alive?

    What are the standards of care for nonviable infants, born alive, under the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (federal or Illinois)?

  • douglasdjohnson

    I posted a rather lengthy second response to Mr. Nichol earlier today, but apparently it was again snagged by the spam filter. If a moderator could free it up I’d appreciate it.

    Douglas Johnson

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Is it possible to spam out little gal’s mean and vile spiritedness–

    like with slanderous saying that Obama’s simple willingness to gain an understanding of our enemies is somehow a rationale for his( falsely stated)sympathies for and collusion with Mr. Ayers.

    like with her preumptuous judgment that Digby has entirely rejected his faith and is not worthy to even talk to.

    She may not call names, but she kills with her reckless judgment.

  • little gal


    The slander is on your side. I posted a quote–they were someone else’s words not mine.

    Re: Digby:

    For example, if one person wants to approach an issue thru ethics and the other thru Catholic moral theology they will not necessisarily get to the same place; to the same conclusion. He has clearly rejected Catholic teaching thru his posts. Ann who did take the bait and respond to him, said essentially the same thing. FYI, if you didn’t already know it, being Christian is not the same as being Catholic. Denominations such as the United Church of Christ, a Christian denomination, has a very different view of abortion than the Catholic Church.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    little gal,

    You passed it on; you thus take responsibility.

  • David Nickol


    Thanks for taking the time for such a detailed response. I think the most important thing to come out of this exchange, from my point of view, is that it has been established that the infants the Born Alive Infant Protection Act were intended to protect were “previable” — that is, unable to survive for more than a few hours after a premature delivery or abortion, even with the best treatment medical science can offer. I agree, by the way, that these infants should be treated humanely, and I also agree that actively killing them would be morally objectionable.

    There are just a few points you have made that I want to respond to.

    Two nurses, Jill Stanek and Allison Baker, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary subcommittee at the first hearing on the federal bill. Their testimony was found credible by the Judiciary Committe and is referred to as such in the official committee report . . . . .

    Be that as it may, the testimony of Stanek and Baker is about incidents which were reported to the State Attorney General’s Office and investigated by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Here is a link to the letter from the Attorney General’s office stating that the investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing.

    The purpose of the legislation was not to spell out exactly how babies are to be treated in this or that situation, but to make it clear that all live-born humans are to be treated as human persons, and treated the same, regardless of whether they achieved live-born status during an abortion.

    It seems to me that in order to take Obama to task for opposing BAIPA, some evidence should be produced that the passage of the bill in Illinois or the passage of the federal version of the bill has made an actual difference in the treatment of infants It would be of little comfort to know that if the mistreatment described by Stanek actually occurred, it continues to occur, with the only difference being that the infants it now happens to are legally persons. I have not seen, in any discussion of BAIPA, any reference to a previously existing law inapplicable to previable babies that became applicable after the passage of BAIPA.

    Here, it seems to me, you go to great lengths to dilute or put a gloss on Obama’s quite clear statements that he believed it was unconstitutional (under Roe v. Wade) to define what he called the “previable fetus” as a person, in the context of an abortion, even though he understood very well that the bill applied that status after the baby was completely separated from the mother, and alive.

    As I read Obama’s statements about defining a previable fetus as a person (and I give a link below so people can read it for themselves), he is not talking about it as outside the mother’s body. He is saying that if a previable fetus is defined as a legal person, abortion itself would be illegal, because it is illegal to kill a person. For that reason, he says, the BAIPA would be unconstitutional, since it would forbid abortion. If you want to argue that he’s missing the point, and that the bill intended to define a previable fetus as a person only after it was born alive, I might agree with you. But I think anyone who reads what he actually said would agree he is not objecting that the bill would take away the “right” to kill previable fetuses after they are born alive. He’s saying it would make abortions illegal.

    In opposition to the bill he goes on to say, and I think this is extremely important regarding charges that he is indifferent to the treatment of infants, “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 previable fetus or child was treated by a hospital. We decided not to do that. We’re going much farther than that in this bill. As a consequence, I think that we will probably end up in court once again, as we often do, on this issue. As a consequence, I’ll be voting Present.”

    That is why Stuart Taylor, a respected (and “pro-choice”) analyst, wrote in National Journal this week, “Obama’s record as an Illinois state senator can be read as suggesting that he may have a more sweeping vision of abortion rights than any of his current Senate colleagues.”

    It has never been my intention to claim Obama was not a very staunch proponent of abortion rights. For example, I think most Americans, even many who call themselves pro-choice, would strongly object to the Freedom of Choice Act. I know I would. My only contention is that it is extraordinarily unfair to accuse Obama of being pro-infanticide or even indifferent to infanticide. It seems to me it is an admission by the pro-life movement that the American people are not sufficiently opposed to abortion to be alarmed if Obama is described as an abortion extremist, so it is considered necessary to twist his position on abortion so that he can be accused of supporting infanticide. Call him extreme on the issue of abortion all you want, and you’ll get no complaints from me. But I think it is a gross distortion to try to associate him with infanticide.

  • digbydolben

    I’m not a member of the “United Church of Christ,” and neither is the young man who wrote the piece I linked to.

    I thought my response to Ann was respectful and thoughtful, as was her thought-provoking response to what my friend wrote about abortion.

    I may disagree heartily with some recent “teachings” of the Magisterium, but that doesn’t prevent me from being theologically aligned with the Roman Catholic Church, the religion of my esteemed ancestors. I’d never join a Church like the “United Church of Christ,” whose theology is so opposed to Orthodoxy.

    Finally, my original post was not meant to be either provocative or in opposition to the “teachings” of the Magisterium. I just meant to point out that there are genuine “Christians” who take a position on abortion that is different from Catholics’. What’s so “disrespectful” about that? Instead of receiving a few polite, albeit curt observations such as Ann’s, I get broadsided by somebody like “little gal” every time I open my mouth here.

    It is perfectly obvious that although the woman may be Catholic, she is completely lacking in the civility that her Master always showed His opponents.

  • douglasdjohnson

    Mr. Nichol:

    It seems to me that you work quite hard to “clean up” the position that Obama articulated on the BAIPA. He said, on the floor of the Illinois Senate, that his remarks about the unconstitutionality of defining a “previable fetus” as a person applied to the BAIPA. The BAIPA was a three-sentence bill. It is impossible to construe those three sentences as applying before birth, since the language explicitly required “complete expulsion or extraction from its mother.” Obama was a college instructor in constitutional law, whose chose to lead the opposition to the BAIPA, and who sat on the committee that had reviewed the bill. Yet your argument boils down to an assertion that he didn’t really understand it the three-sentence bill, that maybe he “missed the point.” I do not argue that he missed the point; I think that contention absurd. He understood the point perfectly. Under his vision of Roe, the non-personhood of the “previable” human must be enforced whether inside or outside the womb, in order to avoid the slightest impediment to the exercise of the “right to abortion.”

    Here is another evidence of this: As discussed in the NRLC materials which I have linked in my earlier postings, the original 2001 Illinois BAIPA (the one Obama was speaking against, in the speech we’re discussiong) contained a single sentence that was NOT part of the original (or final) federal BAIPA. We refer to it as the “immediate protection clause.” It read as follows: “A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.” In a document issued on August 19, 2008 — that date is, again, 2008 — the Obama campaign issued a document that quoted this specific sentence as one justification for Obama’s opposition, labeling it, “Language Clearly Threatening Roe.” So, to this day, it is Obama’s position that a law affirming that “a live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law,” is a violation of his vision of Roe — and, it follows, therefore unconstitutional under the constitutional doctrine which he has adopted. I eagerly await your explanation of how Obama might “misunderstand” the point of the “immediate protection clause.” And if, as Obama continues to argue, the “immediate protection clause” itself was inconsistent with Roe, then how could any law to protect infants who are born alive DURING ABORTIONS from “infanticide” be enforced constitutionally? After all, where Roe DOES apply, it overrides all criminal and civil laws that are inconsistent with it.

    Of course, I am not embracing Obama’s extremely expansive vision of what Roe v. Wade means. But I find remarkable the effort you are going to in an attempt to deny that he himself holds it. He articulated it, he acted on it, and his campaign’s August 19, 2008 document — issued after these issues were already the focus of heated debate — indicates that he has not changed his doctrine, as much as he would like to distract from it.

    You agree that Obama has extremely pro-abortion views, but object strongly from the suggestion that he was unconcerned about those “previable fetus[es]” who were born alive during induced-labor abortions. Yet the evidence is that the distinction you are making was not a distinction that mattered to Obama — he saw the abortion as one constitutionally protected activity from start to finish, and objected to personhood for the “previable fetus” at any stage in the process. It is same position that NARAL took in 2000 with respect to the federal bill. NARAL backed off, Obama never did. Our August 28 White Paper makes the case in greater detail that Obama’s position on “abortion rights” is so expansive that would indeed (if enshrined in law) permit infanticide:

    I assure you, however, that we are also doing our best to educate interested citizens regarding Obama record on other abortion policy issues, including his cosponsorship of the radical “Freedom of Choice Act” and his advocacy of the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, an “abortion reduction” law that has saved over one million lives.

    A few other points:

    — The BAIPA was not concerned ONLY with previable newborns, or ONLY with babies who are born alive during abortions, although that was the focus of most of the debate. Again, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee report does a good job of distilling a number of reasons why it was important to enact a blanket statute that would ensure that all live-born humans were recognized as legal persons and deserving of equal protection after birth. To cite just one example, a professor at Princeton had written that there should be a period after birth, I think he suggested one month, in which ALL infants are regarded as legal non-persons, so that those found to have serious disabilities can be euthanasized without legal complications.

    — The letter to which you refer, signed in 2000 by then Attorney General George Ryan, does not exactly say that nothing wrong or bad occurred, but rather, that evidence was not found of “any statutory violation.” To my mind, the letter is one more evidence that additional legislation was needed. Pro-life lawmakers in Illinois thought so, too, because they introduced bills to tighten up the standards for post-viability abortions (Obama opposed those bills), and they introduced BAIPA (which Obama opposed).

    I have not alleged that any violation of an existing Illinois law occurred. But if I were you, I wouldn’t rely too much on an assurance by George Ryan that everything was by the book. Ryan himself left the governor’s office in disgrace and is now in federal prison for bribery. The Wikipedia entry explains, “The corruption scandal that led to Ryan’s downfall began over a decade earlier as a federal investigation into a deadly crash in Wisconsin that killed six children. The investigation revealed a scheme inside Ryan’s secretary of state’s office in which unqualified truck drivers obtained licenses through bribes.” I’d put more weight on the testimony of the nurses, found credible by a bipartisan array of federal lawmakers of both parties.

    Douglas Johnson
    Legislative Director
    National Right to Life Committee

  • David Nickol


    In your response you provide an excellent example of how the zeal to “prove” the false charge that Obama is pro-infanticide is more important than telling the truth and getting facts straight.

    You said:

    The letter to which you refer, signed in 2000 by then Attorney General George Ryan, does not exactly say that nothing wrong or bad occurred, but rather, that evidence was not found of “any statutory violation.”

    Later you said:

    I have not alleged that any violation of an existing Illinois law occurred. But if I were you, I wouldn’t rely too much on an assurance by George Ryan that everything was by the book. Ryan himself left the governor’s office in disgrace and is now in federal prison for bribery.

    The letter to which I was referring, and to which I gave a link, was signed not by the Attorney General himself, but by Chief Deputy Attorney General Carole R. Dorris.

    More importantly, George Ryan was never Attorney General of Illinois. Clearly you felt that if you could discredit the Attorney General at the time of the investigation into Stanek’s allegations, you could discredit the investigation itself. A cheap tactic at best. But the Attorney General at the time was not George Ryan (who was never Attorney General of Illinois) but Jim Ryan, who was Attorney General from 1995 to 2003 and is notnow in prison but has retired from politics and is a professor at Benedictine University.

    I think this should leave everyone wondering what else in you overzealous attempt to “prove” Obama is pro-infanticide is a distortion (like implying Peter Singer’s views about infanticide are somehow relevant to this discussion!) or an out-and-out falsehood.

  • douglasdjohnson

    Please excuse typo in my spelling of Mr. Nickol’s name, above.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Mr Johnson,

    We are still awaiting an answer as to why your organization chooses to honor men like Karl Rove, by giving them keynote address positions, even though their own records with abortion are at best spotty and their partisan rancour is beyond comparison.

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  • douglasdjohnson

    With respect to Mr. Nickol’s 4:22 PM posting above, he is absolutely correct that the letter we are discussing was on the letter head of Attorney General Jim Ryan (although signed by a subordinate), whereas my offhand remarks at the end concerned George Ryan, previously secretary of state and governor. There was a George Ryan association in my mind — the parents of the six children who were killed in that crash later campaigned for a different piece of pro-life legislation, a bill that was killed by Chairman Obama in his committee on the same day that he killed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (March 13, 2003). But this in no way excuses my careless, offhand reference to George Ryan in connection with the letter. My apologies to Mr. Nickol and to Jim Ryan on this point.

    That said, I believe that my characterization of the content of the letter — which is what is relevant and what I should have stuck to — was perfectly accurate. And I think that repeatedly slurs on the credibility of the whistleblower nurses do Mr. Nichol no credit — but again, everyone can read their testimony and draw their own conclusions.

    I am frankly baffled by Mr. Nickol’s statement that I engage in “distortion” by “implying Peter Singer’s views about infanticide are somehow relevant to this discussion.” Mr. Nickol himself had taken to
    discussing the BAIPA as if it was only a response to the testimony about events at one hospital in Illinois. I pointed out that this was a misconception, and that the House Judiciary Committee report had laid out a number of justifications for the bill, among these, the writings of Prof. Singer.

    Indeed, at the very first congressional haring on the federal BAIPA, Prof. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence in the Department of Politics at Princeton University, in his testimony in favor of the legislation, testified as follows”

    “If my philosophy of civil rights were uncontroversial, there would be no need for me and the other witnesses to be here today or for you to trouble yourselves with this hearing. Infanticide would be unthinkable. Even those who believe in abortion, as I do not, would draw the line at birth, if not before, on the ground that the physical separation of mother and child eliminates any concern that protecting the life of the child would violate the rights of her mother. But today the philosophy of civil rights I hold is far from undisputed. Infanticide is openly defended and even put forward as itself a right. Indeed, in the academy the intellectual groundwork is already in place to extend the right to abortion into the post-natal phase.

    “In an article entitled ”Killing Babies Isn’t Always Wrong” (The Spectator, 16 September 1995, pp. 20–22), Professor Peter Singer, who has since become my colleague at Princeton where he is DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values, made the following proposal: ‘Perhaps, like the ancient Greeks, we should have a ceremony a month after birth, at which the infant is admitted to the community. Before that time, infants would not be recognized as having the same right to life as older people.’

    Now, I understand that Professor Singer has since backed away from the proposed ceremony, but he has not altered his view that we should do away in law and ethics with the principle at the core of traditional concepts of human rights and equality, namely, that it is always wrong intentionally to kill innocent human beings; nor has he abandoned his claim that newborn human beings are not ”persons” with a right to life that must be respected and protected by law. He continues to insist that human beings only become ”persons,” and acquire a right to life, sometime well after birth. He denies that we are ”created equal” and affirms a concept which, frankly, makes me shudder: that of a class of human beings, including newborn infants, who are, in effect, nonpersons.

    Is Professor Singer alone in these beliefs or in their public advocacy? Far from it. In fact, his position isn’t even new. Something very much like it was articulated in a mainstream philosophical journal as early as 1972 by philosopher Michael Tooley. (”Abortion and Infanticide,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 2.) Writing even before legal prohibitions of abortion were swept away by the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, Professor Tooley bluntly declared that human fetuses and infants ”do not have a right to life.” Only ”persons” have a right to life, and fetuses and infants are not, he insisted, ”persons.” Like Singer, Tooley expressed no doubt that infants (or, for that matter, fetuses) are human beings. He acknowledged, as does Singer, the plain fact that from the beginning of our lives—well before birth—we are distinct, whole, living members of the species Homo sapiens. But, he insisted, we do not become ”persons”—we do not acquire the right to life—until well after we are born. According to Professor Tooley, a human being (or other organism) ”possesses a serious right to life only if it possesses the concept of a self as a continuing subject of experiences and other mental states, and believes that it is itself such a continuing entity.” Infants do not qualify.

    Here in Washington, D.C., American University philosophy professor Jeffrey Reiman, while expressly declining ”to settle the issue about the moral status of infanticide,” also claims that infants are not ”persons” with a right to life. (Critical Moral Liberalism: Theory and Practice (Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997), ch. 8, ”Abortion and Infanticide.”) While he offers some reasons why people might nevertheless think it generally wrong to kill newborn babies, he promoted the view that infants, unlike more mature human beings, do not ”possess in their own right a property that makes it wrong to kill them.” He denies that infants are members of the community who share equal worth, dignity, and rights, and explicitly holds that ”there will be permissible exceptions to the rule against killing infants that will not apply to the rule against killing adults and children.”

    I could go on with examples. For now, though, suffice it to say that people who wish to destroy an ”unwanted” child have today in the academy—here in the United States—influential scholars who are willing to say that the baby they seek to have killed is not, in fact, a ”person” with an equal right to life. Some of these scholars promote the idea that killing an infant at the request of its parent—presumably a father as well as a mother in view of the fact that the physical separation of the child from the mother seems to confer on a father an equal right to command the death of the child—is morally acceptable and ought to be legally permitted.

    The legitimization of infanticide constitutes a grave threat to the principle of human equality at the heart of American civil rights ideals. If weak and vulnerable members of the human family—and infants are surely among the weakest and most vulnerable—can be defined out of the community of ”persons” whose fundamental rights must be respected and protected by law, the constitutional principle of equal protection becomes a sham. We must begin now putting into place bulwarks against this threat. I therefore respectfully urge passage of H.R. 4292, the Born Alive Infants Protection Act.


  • douglasdjohnson

    Well, another apology — somehow I hit a key that caused my previous entry to post before I had finished eding it. I had not intended to reproduce quite so much of Professor George’s testimony, and some other editing also didn’t get done (if possible, moderator, please trim off those scraps at the end).

    But I think you see that Prof. George made the case that the concept of full legal status attaching to all human infants at birth was being (as is being) challenged in some quarters.

    The House Judiciary Committee itself cited Singer in its official report accompanying the bill, so I hardly think it can be a “distortion” for me to cite Singer’s position in a paragraph illustrating reasons why such a bill was deemed necessary.

  • joseph

    Sounds like Nichol holds the same opinions as Singer and Tooley, which, if that is so, puts him well out of communion with the Church.

  • S.B.

    Mr. Johnson — if you’re new to this blog, you should be aware that every time the pro-life movement comes up, there are a few liberal bloggers/commenters who claim to oppose abortion but who dismiss the entire prolife movement on the putative grounds that NRLC had Karl Rove as a speaker once. I think what’s going on is that they’re embarrassed that their side is so gung-ho about abortion, and so the only arrow in their quiver is the “tu quoque,” i.e., “well, your side has Karl Rove!”

  • David Nickol

    And I think that repeatedly slurs on the credibility of the whistleblower nurses do Mr. Nichol no credit — but again, everyone can read their testimony and draw their own conclusions.


    Why would you characterize as “slurs” my pointing out that the allegations of Jill Stanek and Allison Baker were investigated by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and were not substantiated? It’s just a fact — a matter of public record. I have not accused them of fabricating the incidents in their testimony, nor did the IDPH.

    If I can’t mention relevant facts, supported by actual documents, without having my character called into question, I don’t see any point in continuing this discussion.

  • douglasdjohnson

    Mr. Nickol:

    I think you came pretty close earlier to suggesting that I was purposely telling falsehoods because of my “zeal,” when in fact I made a careless but honest error in confusing two different officials, which I regret but which had no bearing on the substantive issues we are discussing. I do not, however, think I have said anything “calling [your] character into question.”

    In one of your postings above, you wrote, “I believe the very disturbing allegations you describe in your message are basically from the testimony of Jill Stanek. It is my understanding that Stanek’s accusations were reported to legal authorities in Illinois, investigated, and could not be substantiated.” You repeated the “were not substantiated” again just above. Your choice of words makes it sound like an official investigation concluded that the allegations were not factual. If you personally made allegations about a matter, and someone later said that they “were not substantiated,” I suspect you would believe that your character was being called into question.

    But I see in the documents no such conclusion regarding matters of fact. Rather, the officials carefully said that nothing was found “to support any statutory violation” or to justify pursuing as a violation of the applicable laws. However, you now have added the helpful clarification that neither you nor the Iillinois Department of Public Health was accusing the nurses of fabricating their testimony (and, again, Stanek was not the only nurse to testify).

    I was present at the 2000 congressional hearing and heard Stanek and Allison Baker. They certainly struck me as credible, and apparently most of the House Judiciary Committee members thought so, too.

    If there is general agreement that what the nurses reported cannot simply be dismissed, then it seems that what they reported should be the focal point of the discussion, not official letters that, if anything, add weight to the view that the existing laws were inadequate (which is why the legislators subsequently proposed new laws, which Obama opposed). Both the federal and state BAIPAs were intended to establish the principle that any human enjoys full legal protection from the point of birth, “at any staga of development,” and — as already discussed above — this is a principle that has implications not only with respect to induced-labor abortions, such as those discussed by the Illinois nurses, but in other contexts as well.

  • I’m still waiting for an explanation as to why the NRLC invites speakers who aid and abet the facilitators of forced abortion.

    Some things clearly don’t change. I went to one NRLC event in the mid-1990s. I got a great meal at the Waldorf Astoria. But when I saw Phyllis Schlafly given pride of place, I almost threw my meal back up. After all, this woman is a public supporter of the use of nuclear weapons, something as intrinsically evil and as opposed to the culture of life as abortion– and yet there she was hanging out with the NRLC. I never went back.

  • David Nickol

    If there is general agreement that what the nurses reported cannot simply be dismissed, then it seems that what they reported should be the focal point of the discussion, not official letters that, if anything, add weight to the view that the existing laws were inadequate . . . .


    I have seen a number of attempts to use the Illinois Department of Public Health’s findings as evidence that Stanek’s allegations were true, and the laws were just not adequate to do anything about them, because the infants in question were not persons under the law. However, Eric Zorn, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, in an e-mail exchange with Jill Stanek, quotes an IDPH spokesperson as saying that if the alleged incidents happened, they would have been violations of existing law:

    ZORN: As you well know, Jill, the Illinois Atty. General’s office, then under abortion foe Jim Ryan, was quite concerned about your allegations and directed the Illinois Dept. of Public Health to conduct a thorough investigation of the claims made by you and Allison Baker.


    “Because what they were alleging were violations of existing law,” IDPH spokesman Tom Shafer told me yesterday. “We took (the allegations) very seriously.”

    Shafer told me that the 1999 investigation reviewed logs, personnel files and medical records. It concluded, “The allegation that infants were allowed to expire in a utility room could not be substantiated (and) all staff interviewed denied that any infant was ever left alone.”

    Shafer was quick to add that neither he nor the IDPH report concluded that your testimony was untruthful or exaggerated to help advance your anti-abortion views–simply that their investigation did not substantiate the allegations.


    Now, no one would deny that Jill Stanek’s testimony is very disturbing. One would hate to believe that even previable infants, who had no chance of living no matter what, would be treated inhumanely. But we are talking about the legislative process here. Should unsubstantiated allegations be use by legislators as a reason to pass laws? And laws, apparently, that were not needed, since if Christ Hospital had done what Stanek alleges, they would have been breaking existing laws?

    In any case, setting all this aside, if infants in Illinois hospitals were being mistreated, and legal actions was necessary, why in the world not pass laws that specified appropriate care for newborns? Why pass a law that changes the definition of what a person is in every Illinois law and regulation? It was called the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, but nobody has yet argued that it actually protected any infants. It just redefined them as persons. It seems to me it was clearly another attempt to make one more step forward in the effort to ban abortions.

  • douglasdjohnson

    Mr. Nickol,

    As I have indicated repeatedly above, in my quotation of Prof. George, my references to the House Judiciary Committee report, there were many reasons to support legislation clearly establishing that all live-born humans have the same legal status. The testimony of the Illinois nurses was a catalyst and a case study in one context in which such clarity was important, but there are others.

    I do not know what SPECIFIC allegations the IDPH spokesman was talking about in that quoe, and I do I know what laws he was talking about (although the Carole Doris letter speaks of the “Hospital Licensing Act” and the “Vital Records Act”). In fact, not much is known about this “investigation,” because, as the Doris letter explains, the IDPH counsel took the position that Illinois law “prohibited release of any investigative files.” I have not alleged that any existing laws were violated. I certainly think that lawmakers had ample justification for legislation to explicitly define every live-born infant as a protected person. Legislation to do so, for federal law purposes, passed the U.S. House 380-15 in 2000 and the U.S. Senate 98-0 in 2001, so not many of the pro-abortion members of Congress shared the concern that such a definition would be a step towards banning abortions.

    I would again make the point that the original 2001 Illinois BAIPA (the one Obama was speaking against, in his “previable fetus” speech) contained a single sentence that was NOT part of the original (or final) federal BAIPA. We refer to it as the “immediate protection clause.” It read as follows: “A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.” In a document issued on August 19, 2008, the Obama campaign quoted this specific sentence as a major justification for Obama’s opposition, labeling it, “Language Clearly Threatening Roe.” I still await an explanation of why Obama finds that sentence especially objectionable. I respectfully suggest that under your theory of the case, his objection to that sentence is inexplicable. As we see it, however, it is perfectly consistent with his previously expressed view about the non-personhood of the “previable fetus” (his term), which we set forth in detail here: http://www.nrlc.org/ObamaBAIPA/WhitePaperAugust282008.html

  • David Nickol


    I hope to make a more substantive reply latter, but I do want to say now that in the state of New York, at least, for the purposes of homicide laws, this is the definition of person:

    “Person,” when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who has been born and is alive.

    It seems to me that covers every situation we have discussed so far, including the types of situations mentioned in Jill Stanek’s testimony. If Illinois did not define person in a similar way, then perhaps they should have worked on the definition rather than BAIPA.

    Homicide is defined as follows:

    Homicide means conduct which causes the death of a person or an unborn
    child with which a female has been pregnant for more than twenty-four
    weeks under circumstances constituting murder, manslaughter in the first
    degree, manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent
    homicide, abortion in the first degree or self-abortion in the first

    I don’t see how anyone could argue any additional protection is needed for any human being, except, of course, if you believe abortion in the first trimester should be criminalized. But we have not been talking about the unborn. It looks to me like — in New York, at least — anyone who has been born alive is covered.

    And as I have pointed out elsewhere, it is not the pro-choice side that is attempting to change centuries-old definitions of who is a person and who isn’t. A few academics making theoretical arguments about infants being considered non-persons for a certain time after birth does not constitute a movement to legalize infanticide. If it were necessary to pass federal and state laws every time a few professors expressed unconventional ideas, our elected representatives would have to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year churning out one new law after another.

  • HA

    …whether letting a pre-viable, born-alive infant die (when it can’t possibly survive) is infanticide.
    As Douglas Johnson noted, the bill was only three sentences long. Can you show us where the words “pre-viable” and “can’t possibly survive” appear?
    I didn’t think so. That being the case, I leave it to everyone else here to figure out why David repeatedly inserts them into the discussion after the fact (given as he is clearly unable or unwilling to figure that out himself), and why he seems so resistant to restating the bills without such embellishments — embellishments that Obama himself did not concern himself with.

    Incidentally, my question to David wasn’t directly about Obama’s dishonesty regarding what he now claims he would have done, but that,too, is worth noting. I suppose, in a sense, Obama is lucky he has his dubious positions on infanticide to deflect from questions about his honesty.