Thursday, September 25, 2008

Obama, Babies and the Benefit of the Doubt

There's often a world of difference between intent and effect. It's referred to as "The law of unintended consequences." And while it's plain to many people that Obama's vote against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act had the effect of fostering infanticide, we can't know that this was Obama's intent.
He might simply have taken at face value things his friends at NOW, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood have told him. Many of us in the prolife movement can remember foregone times when we trusted one or more of those organizations. Many prochoicers still do trust them.

So, let's give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt here. I'm going to do a multi-post feature looking at Obama's statements and assessing them in a charitable light.

He makes the point that when a baby is born alive during an abortion, a doctor has already "made that assessment" -- presumably that the baby in question isn't "viable" -- that is, able to survive outside the womb. But if the baby is born alive, the doctor in question has already established in a pretty palpable way that his clinical judgment isn't all it's cracked up to be. He already thought the baby wouldn't survive the abortion process. Now are we to trust him to judge the baby's chance of survival when she's already proved to be much more tenacious of life than he expected?

Obama indicates that it's somehow just burdensome to bring a second doctor in, after the abortion doctor has made his assessment: an assessment that has been proved to be flawed.

As if doctors are all the same. As if a second opinion is never called for.

Imagine for a moment that your wife, daughter, or sister is in a car crash. She's brought into the emergency room with a serious head injury. A doctor examines her, tells you that there is no hope, and hands you papers for organ donation.

This doctor is telling you that your loved one's brain injury is fatal. If that doctor is a neurosurgeon, how much would you trust the assessment? What if the doctor isn't a neurosurgen, but an ob/gyn? Would you want him making that call?

Probably not. He might be the best ob/gyn in the world, but brain surgery is tricky business. You'd want a specialist, somebody with experience assessing patients with brain injuries.

Some areas of medicine are fairly simple, and don't really require a specialist. Probably just about any doctor can set a simple fracture, drain an abscessed toenail, or treat your poison ivy. But for a brain injury, you're rightly going to want a specialist, with intensive specialized training and extensive specialized experience. The same goes with preemies -- especially the micropreemies that can be expected in an abortion-triggered birth. These tiny babies are not easy to assess and care for. They require a very high level of skill and clinical judgment. Only neonatologists are qualified to assess and care for them.

The doctor making the initial assessment in an abortion is likely an ob/gyn, though he might be a psychiatrist or dermatologist or ENT. There's no requirement that abortions be performed by ob/gyns. But let's for the sake of argument assume that he is an ob/gyn.

Ob/gyns who are providing care to women who don't intend to abort routinely concede that assessing and caring for critically ill, premature, or injured babies isn't their speciality. They have sense enough, when the mother loves and wants her baby, to call in an expert to make an expert assessment.

But Obama is asserting that in the case of an infant born during an abortion, the usual standard of care -- to have a neonatologist assess the premature and/or injured baby -- suddenly doesn't apply. In abortion cases, and abortion cases alone, Obama asserts, the ob/gyn's skill is adequate to assess and care for that baby.

But to reiterate, the ob/gyn in question has already shown poor clinical judgment in his own specialty by trying to abort a baby strong enough to survive the procedure.

Obama isn't necessarily endorsing infanticide of babies born during abortions. He might not even have thought through the fact that he's stating that a lesser standard of care is adequate. It might simply never have occurred to him that a premature baby needs a neonatologist, not an obstetrician.

It doesn't show murderous intent. But it shows poor judgment and lack of reasoning. And it still leaves babies in the lurch if they're born after an abortion.


Deanna said...


Anonymous said...

I am the legislative director for National Right to Life. I was a close observer of or direct participant in the key events surrounding the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), which was introduced in Congress in 2000 and enacted in 2002. I have studied closely the events surrounding the BAIPAs that were proposed in Illinois, during 2001, 2002, and 2003, which were very closely based on the federal bill, but which were not enacted.

State senator Barack Obama understood these bills very well. He led the opposition to the state BAIPAs in all three sessions. The bills were each only three sentences long. He was a former editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was a law school instructor. He sat on the committee which held hearings and, in 2001 and 2002, reported on the bills favorably, despite his "no" votes.

He understood the BAIPA -- and he disagreed with its intent. When the BAIPA came to the state Senate floor the first time, in 2001, he was the only senator to speak against it. His remarks clearly reflect that he holds the most expansive view on the scope of Roe v. Wade and the "right to abortion." He said that "whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – a child, a nine-month-old -- child that was delivered to term." He understood that the bill only defined what he called a "previable fetus" as a "person" if that human being had already achieved the "complete expulsion or extraction from its mother," and was alive -- but that didn't matter, because the context was abortion.

The quote in your moving video is from his April 4, 2002, floor speech, which was technically not a speech on the BAIPA -- which had already passed the Senate, minutes earlier -- but on SB 1663, a bill to tighten up the very weak Illinois law that applies to abortions performed after the point at which the abortionist determines that the baby has "a reasonable likelihood of sustain survival of the fetus outside the womb." Although Obama was talking about a different bill, the quote certainly is pertinent to understanding his thinking on the entire subject of babies born alive during abortions. In his conclusion to that 2002 speech, Obama said, "it's important to understand that the issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births."

The original version of the Illinois BAIPA, introduced in 2001, was only three sentences long. It contained one sentence known as the "immediate protection clause," to which Obama especially objected. Indeed, in an Obama campaign memo issued to the media on August 19, 2008 -- yes, 2008 -- the Obama campaign characterized this clause as "Language Clearly Threatening Roe." Here is that clause, to which Obama continues to this day to object: "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."

By 2003, the Democrats had taken control of the Illinois Senate, and Obama became the chairman of the committee to which the BAIPA was referred. On March 13, 2003, Obama presided over a meeting of his committee, at which the "immediate protection clause" (quoted above) was stricken from the bill, and replaced with the "neutrality clause" copied verbatim from the federal BAIPA (see the text below). At that point, the state BAIPA became virtually identical to the federal BAIPA, which Congress had passed the previous year without a single dissenting vote.

Obama then led all his committee's Democrats in voting down the amended bill, killing it, 6-4.

From the time of his 2004 U.S. Senate race, Obama recognized that his actual articulated reason for opposing the Illinois BAIPAs -- that a living, squirming baby entirely outside the mother must not be regarded as a legal person under his vision of Roe v. Wade, if that baby is "previable" and was born during an abortion -- would be very difficult to defend. Therefore, he began to assert, falsely, that the state BAIPA that he had opposed was very different from the federal BAIPA, because (he asserted) only the federal BAIPA had the "neutrality clause." On August 11, 2008, National Right to Life released documents proving that in fact Obama had killed a bill virtually identical to the federal bill. On August 16, Obama, asked about this by CBN's Dave Brody (in an interview also televised on CNN), responded that NRLC was "lying." A subsequent investigation by Annenberg's 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 BAIPA]."

But, perhaps the best answer to much of the Obama disinformation on this subject-- and to the idea that maybe he didn't under the BAIPA -- is to simply read the bill that he voted against and killed in his committee on March 13, 2003. Here it is -- all of it:

** S.B. 1082

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 bill], 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.

[end of bill text]


There is much more detail and documentation on this subject in the "White Paper" issued by NRLC on August 28, 2008, titled, "Barack Obama's Actions and Shifting Claims on the Protection of Born-Alive Infants -- and What They Tell Us About His Thinking on Abortion," which is here:

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

Unknown said...

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