Sen. Barack Obama has repeatedly insisted that he opposed the passage of an Illinois law that would protect infants who survive an abortion on the grounds that it lacked a “neutrality clause.” However, Obama’s explanation was undermined when the National Right to Life Committee revealed “smoking gun” evidence showing that a neutrality clause had in fact been added to the Illinois bill by the same Obama-chaired state Senate committee which quickly voted down the amended bill.
National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) spokesman Douglas Johnson summarized the revelations, saying:
“Newly obtained documents prove that in 2003, Barack Obama, as chairman of an Illinois state Senate committee, voted down a bill to protect live-born survivors of abortion -- even after the panel had amended the bill to contain verbatim language, copied from a federal bill passed by Congress without objection in 2002, explicitly foreclosing any impact on abortion.
“Obama's legislative actions in 2003 -- denying effective protection even to babies born alive during abortions -- were contrary to the position taken on the same language by even the most liberal members of Congress. The bill Obama killed was virtually identical to the federal bill that even NARAL ultimately did not oppose.”
The federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA) was first introduced into Congress in 2000. A two-paragraph bill, it was intended to clarify that any baby who is entirely expelled from his or her mother and shows any signs of life is to be regarded as a legal person for all purposes of federal law, whether or not the baby was born during an attempted abortion.
A “neutrality clause” was added to state explicitly that the bill expressed no judgment about the legal status of a human being prior to birth.
“Nothing in this section 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,” it read.
The bill passed Congress in 2002 without any dissenting votes and was enacted in August of that year.
As a member of the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama opposed a state version of BAIPA in three successive regular legislative sessions. Even after the pro-abortion group NARAL withdrew its opposition, Obama reportedly continued to oppose the bill, which did not pass the Illinois Senate until 2005, after Obama had left that legislative body.
During his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, Obama’s Republican opponent charged Obama with supporting “infanticide” for opposing the bill, which charge Obama countered by claiming the proposed Illinois law substantially differed from the federal version of BAIPA.
According to an October 4, 2004 article in the Chicago Tribune, “Obama said that had he been in the U.S. Senate two years ago, he would have voted for the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, even though he voted against a state version of the proposal. The federal version was approved; the state version was not. …The difference between the state and federal versions, Obama explained, was that the state measure lacked the federal language clarifying that the act would not be used to undermine Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that legalized abortion.”
However, the NRLC claims that newly obtained documents “demonstrate conclusively” that Obama’s defense is based on a “brazen factual misrepresentation.”
The NRLC said in a Monday statement that it has obtained documents proving that in 2003, when Obama was chairman of the Illinois state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, he presided over a committee meeting in which the “neutrality clause,” copied verbatim from the federal bill, was added to the Illinois BAIPA. Though Obama reportedly voted in support of adding the revision, immediately afterwards he joined other Democrats on the committee in voting against the amended bill.
The amended bill failed by a vote of 6 to 4 on March 13.
NRLC claims the bill was “virtually identical” to the federal law, differing only on “minor points” of drafting style. It cites as evidence the Senate Committee Action Report of March 12, 2003, which includes reports of the following day’s committee action. NRLC says the “neutrality clause” is shown to have been added in an amendment to Senate Bill 1082, the Illinois BAIPA proposal, by a vote of 10 to 0, including Obama’s vote.
Obama supporters have repeated the Democratic candidate’s explanation of his opposition to the BAIPA bill. A June 30, 2008 “Fact Check” article on the Obama campaign web site insists the Illinois and the federal legislation “were not the same,” repeating the claim that the state bill lacked the clause expressing no judgment concerning the legal status of the unborn child.
In his 2008 campaign Obama himself has repeated his self-justifications from 2004.
Also on June 30, CNN reported “Senator Obama says if he had been in the U.S. Senate in 2002, he, too, would have voted in favor of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act because unlike the Illinois bill, it included language protecting Roe v. Wade.”
An August 7 New York Times article similarly reported that Obama “said he had opposed the bill because it was poorly drafted and would have threatened the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that established abortion as a constitutional right. He said he would have voted for a similar bill that passed the United States Senate because it did not have the same constitutional flaw as the Illinois bill.”
Susan Armacost, Legislative Director at Wisconsin Right to Life, on Thursday told CNA the new evidence suggests Obama is trying to hide the fact that there was a neutrality clause. That he opposed the bill even after the addition of the clause, she argued, “tells voters that he knows that what he did is not in-synch with the American People. We see that he is so tied in to the abortion mentality that he will even accept that the deaths of children who are ‘legal persons.’”
Susan Muskett, J.D., Legislative Counsel for the NRLC, told CNA on Thursday that the newly revealed evidence is “unbiased documentation showing that the committee voted 10-0 to adapt a neutrality clause, then voted to kill the bill. The smoking gun committee report is irrefutable evidence of what took place that day.”
A writer from the magazine Human Events had contacted some Republican senators who sat on Obama’s Illinois Senate committee, who confirmed that the bill had been voted on.
In a January 16, 2008 column, Terrence Jeffrey, a contributing editor to HumanEvents.com, apparently was the first to correctly report that the amended version of BAIPA had been blocked by Obama and the Illinois Senate committee. According to the NRLC, his report was ignored by the Obama campaign and overlooked by others.
The NRLC has posted its supporting documentation at the web address http://nrlc.org/ObamaBAIPA/