Wash. Times editorial cropped Obama quote to falsely claim he argued against protecting "babies who survive botched late-term abortions"

››› ››› BRIAN FREDERICK

A Washington Times editorial falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama "argu[ed] cold-bloodedly on the Illinois Senate floor that babies who survive botched late-term abortions should not be considered 'persons' because this would be tantamount to admitting 'that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- a child, a 9-month old -- child that was delivered to term.' " In fact, he was not discussing "late-term abortions" in the remarks the editorial highlighted; Obama was asserting that the bill in question, which was not limited to late-term abortions, would "essentially bar abortions."

In a February 1 editorial, The Washington Times falsely claimed that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama "argu[ed] cold-bloodedly on the Illinois Senate floor that babies who survive botched late-term abortions should not be considered 'persons' because this would be tantamount to admitting 'that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- a child, a 9-month old -- child that was delivered to term.' " In fact, Obama was not discussing "late-term abortions" in the remarks the editorial highlighted; as is clear from his March 30, 2001, remarks on the state Senate floor, he was asserting that the bill in question, which was not limited to late-term abortions, would in effect "essentially bar abortions."

The Times editorial asserted that the position Obama took on "babies who survive botched late-term abortions" while in the state Senate "should horrify the two-fifths of Americans who consider themselves pro-life":

Mr. Obama is also one of the most pro-choice presidential contenders in history. His 100 percent rating from the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council as a state senator was just the beginning. Mr. Obama is known in pro-life circles for arguing cold-bloodedly on the Illinois Senate floor that babies who survive botched late-term abortions should not be considered "persons" because this would be tantamount to admitting "that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- a child, a 9-month old -- child that was delivered to term." This should horrify the two-fifths of Americans who consider themselves pro-life. It surely won't "unify."

Yet in the quote that the Times referenced, Obama was asserting that the bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Patrick O'Malley, was unconstitutional because it would "define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or other elements in the Constitution" and therefore represent a de facto restriction on all abortions. From Obama's March 30, 2001, statement on the Illinois Senate floor:

OBAMA: Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- a child, a nine-month-old -- child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it -- it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an anti-abortion statute.

Additionally, Obama listed a "second reason" in his floor statement that the proposed law was "unconstitutional" -- it would "plac[e] a burden on the doctor" that would prevent many facilities from having the resources necessary to perform abortions:

OBAMA: The second reason that it would probably be found unconstitutional is that this essentially says that a doctor is required to provide treatment to a previable child, or fetus, however way you want to describe it. Viability is the line that has been drawn by the Supreme Court to determine whether or not an abortion can or cannot take place. And if we're placing a burden on the doctor that says you have to keep alive even a previable child as long as possible and give them as much medical attention as -- as is necessary to try to keep that child alive, then we're probably crossing the line in terms of unconstitutionality.

Obama also said: "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 further than that in this bill."

From the February 1 Washington Times editorial:

Candidate Barack Obama frequently promises to soar above partisan politics. But the theatrics of such declarations keep bumping into the reality of Mr. Obama's left-liberal record in Washington and the left-liberal record in Illinois state politics which preceded it. The latest reminder: As recently as 2004, Mr. Obama supported decriminalizing marijuana, opening relations with Communist Cuba and providing health care for illegal aliens.

In a little-noticed 2004 video featured today in The Washington Times, Mr. Obama sounds quite comfortable voicing his leftist leanings. "I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws," Mr. Obama told a Northwestern University audience as he campaigned for the Senate in 2004. "But I'm not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana." Fast forward to the fall of 2007, and Mr. Obama can be found hedging these views -- meekly raising his hand at a Democratic presidential debate to oppose decriminalization. Wrongly, it turns out. Mr. Obama still supports it, according to a spokesman.

It is not just marijuana, relations with Cuba or health care for illegals. Mr. Obama is also one of the most pro-choice presidential contenders in history. His 100 percent rating from the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council as a state senator was just the beginning. Mr. Obama is known in pro-life circles for arguing cold-bloodedly on the Illinois Senate floor that babies who survive botched late-term abortions should not be considered "persons" because this would be tantamount to admitting "that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- a child, a 9-month old -- child that was delivered to term." This should horrify the two-fifths of Americans who consider themselves pro-life. It surely won't "unify."

Let's be realistic. Mr. Obama scores a 95 percent in the liberal activist group Americans for Democratic Action's ratings. He scores in the single digits when judged by conservative groups.

From Obama's March 30, 2001, floor statement:

OBAMA: This bill was fairly extensively debated in the Judiciary Committee, and so I won't belabor the issue. I do want to just make sure that everybody in the Senate knows what this bill is about, as I understand it. Senator O'Malley, the testimony during the committee indicated that one of the key concerns was -- is that there was a method of abortion, an induced abortion, where the -- the fetus or child, as -- as some might describe it, is still temporarily alive outside the womb. And one of the concerns that came out in the testimony was the fact that they were not being properly cared for during that brief period of time that they were still living. Is that correct? Is that an accurate sort of description of one of the key concerns in the bill?

O'MALLEY: Senator Obama, it is certainly a key concern that the -- the way children are treated following their birth under these circumstances has been reported to be, without question, in my opinion, less than humane, and so this bill suggests that appropriate steps be taken to treat that baby as a -- a citizen of the United States and afforded all the rights and protections it deserves under the Constitution of the United States.

OBAMA: Well, it turned out -- that during the testimony a number of members who are typically in favor of a woman's right to choose an abortion were actually sympathetic to some of the concerns that your -- you raised and that were raised by witnesses in the testimony. And there was some suggestion that we might be able to craft something that might meet constitutional muster with respect to caring for fetuses or children who were delivered in this fashion. Unfortunately, this bill goes a little bit further, and so I just want to suggest, not that I think it'll make too much difference with respect to how we vote, that this is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny. Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- a child, a nine-month-old -- child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it -- it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child. Then this would be an antiabortion statute. For that purpose, I think it would probably be found unconstitutional.

The second reason that it would probably be found unconstitutional is that this essentially says that a doctor is required to provide treatment to a previable child, or fetus, however way you want to describe it. Viability is the line that has been drawn by the Supreme Court to determine whether or not an abortion can or cannot take place. And if we're placing a burden on the doctor that says you have to keep alive even a previable child as long as possible and give them as much medical attention as -- as is necessary to try to keep that child alive, then we're probably crossing the line in terms of unconstitutionality. Now, as I said before, this probably won't make any difference. I recall the last time we had a debate about abortion, we passed a bill out of here. I suggested to Members of the Judiciary Committee that it was unconstitutional and it would be struck down by the Seventh Circuit. It was. I recognize this is a passionate issue, and so I -- I won't, as I said, belabor the point. 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 further 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. And as a consequence, I'll be voting Present.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.