Wash. Post purported to give both sides of "Born-Alive" bill dispute, but left out Illinois' reported position

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

The Washington Post reported that "[a]bortion foes are now accusing [Sen. Barack] Obama of being an abortion-rights extremist" and purported to give the views of both the proponents and opponents of the "Born-Alive Infants Protection Act," which Obama voted against as an Illinois state senator. But at no point did the Post note that the Illinois Department of Public Health had reportedly said that the alleged conduct the Post identified as having been the impetus for the bill was already illegal.

In an August 20 Washington Post article stating that "[a]bortion foes are now accusing [Sen. Barack] Obama of being an abortion-rights extremist," staff writer Jonathan Weisman purported to give the views of both the proponents and opponents of the "Born-Alive Infants Protection Act," which Obama voted against as an Illinois state senator. But at no point did Weisman note that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) had reportedly said that the alleged conduct Weisman identified as having been the impetus for the bill was already illegal.

Weisman reported: "At issue is a measure in both Illinois and Congress called the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which defines as a protected human any life expelled from a mother. Abortion foes championed the cause when an Illinois nurse and antiabortion activist said some pre-viable fetuses were being aborted by inducing labor and then being allowed to die." Weisman continued: "Obama, then a state senator, opposed the measure in 2001, saying it crossed the line of constitutionality and 'essentially says that a doctor is required to provide treatment to a pre-viable child, or fetus.' " But Weisman did not note that in addition to saying that the bill was constitutionally problematic, Obama has also said it wasn't necessary: He has cited specific provisions of the Illinois Compiled Statutes in stating that "existing Illinois law already requires doctors to provide medical care in the very rare case that babies are born alive during abortions."

Indeed, after investigating the claim of Illinois nurse Jill Stanek that, in Weisman's words, "some pre-viable fetuses were being aborted by inducing labor and then being allowed to die," the IDPH reportedly said that the alleged conduct, if proved, would have constituted "violations of existing law" but that it could not substantiate the allegation.

In an August 2004 email discussion with Stanek, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn quoted IDPH spokesman Tom Shafer stating: "[W]hat they were alleging were violations of existing law. ... We took (the allegations) very seriously." Zorn further wrote: "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.' "

From Zorn's 2004 blog post:

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.

Why?

"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.

From the August 20 Washington Post article:

Obama's hesitant statement at the forum that defining the beginning of life is "above my pay grade" took even some supporters by surprise. Since then, the National Right to Life Committee has challenged him on an obscure law that protects babies born alive after failed abortions, saying that his opposition to the measure in the Illinois state legislature proves he is an extremist.

[...]

Similarly, Obama has made a show of reaching out to abortion opponents to find common ground on pregnancy prevention and adoption. He has urged evangelicals and Catholics to expand the definition of "pro-life" to include opposing torture, poverty and unnecessary war. In the Democratic primary, Obama was criticized by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign and others for being insufficiently committed to abortion rights because he did not cast some votes on the issue in the Illinois legislature.

Abortion foes are now accusing Obama of being an abortion-rights extremist. In recent days, the National Right to Life Committee has charged that Obama is misrepresenting his record to broaden his appeal. At issue is a measure in both Illinois and Congress called the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which defines as a protected human any life expelled from a mother. Abortion foes championed the cause when an Illinois nurse and antiabortion activist said some pre-viable fetuses were being aborted by inducing labor and then being allowed to die.

Obama, then a state senator, opposed the measure in 2001, saying it crossed the line of constitutionality and "essentially says that a doctor is required to provide treatment to a pre-viable child, or fetus."

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Jonathan Weisman
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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