Politico's Martin uncritically reported false claim that "Obama opposed legislation that ... would protect legal protection to babies outside the womb"

››› ››› ADAM SHAH & TOM ALLISON

In a Politico blog post about an ad attacking Sen. Barack Obama for abortion-related votes he cast as a state senator, Jonathan Martin wrote: "As a state senator, Obama opposed legislation that proponents said would protect legal protection to babies outside the womb." But Martin did not note that the suggestion that at the time Illinois law did not already provide "legal protection to babies outside the womb" is false. Additionally, the Illinois Department of Health reportedly said that the alleged actions cited as evidence that the bill was necessary were already illegal.

In a September 16 blog post on an ad by Bornalivetruth.org "attacking [Sen. Barack] Obama for abortion-related votes he cast as a state senator," Politico's Jonathan Martin uncritically reported: "As a state senator, Obama opposed legislation that proponents said would protect legal protection to babies outside the womb." But Martin did not note that the suggestion that at the time Illinois law did not already provide "legal protection to babies outside the womb" is false. Additionally, Martin did not note that the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) reportedly said that the alleged actions Bornalivetruth.org has cited as evidence that the bill was necessary were already illegal.

In a purported "fact check[]" on its website, Bornalivetruth.org stated:

1. Hospitals weren't leaving children to die.

Obama: "There was no documentation that hospitals were actually doing what was alleged."

REALITY: After seeing a colleague place an infant who survived an abortion in the hospital's soiled utility room, our spokesperson and former Christ Hospital nurse Jill Stanek testified before Congress and several state legislatures of holding a live aborted infant for 45 minutes until he gasped for his last breath. Another Christ Hospital nurse, Allison Baker, testified before Congress after observing similar practices.

In fact, the IDPH reportedly concluded that if the hospital had done what Stanek and Baker had alleged, its actions would have been illegal under existing law. In an August 2004 email discussion with Stanek, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn quoted IDPH spokesman Tom Shafer stating, apparently in reference to Stanek and Baker: "[W]hat they were alleging were violations of existing law. ... We took (the allegations) very seriously." Zorn wrote further: "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.

Martin also reported that the ad "featur[ed] a self-proclaimed abortion-survivor." In the ad, video of which Martin included in his post, Gianna Jessen said she was "born after a failed abortion. But if Barack Obama had his way, I wouldn't be here. Four times, Barack Obama voted to oppose a law to protect babies left to die after failed abortions." But Martin did not note that the existing Illinois abortion law specifically required a doctor to provide medical care to a fetus born alive in the situation described by Jessen.

Jessen's website states that the attempted abortion took place in the "third trimester." The Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, as it existed when the legislation was being considered, requires that except in cases involving medical emergencies, when a doctor performed an abortion on a viable fetus, a second doctor was required to be in attendance during the procedure and, "if a child is born alive," that doctor "shall exercise the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as would be required of a physician providing immediate medical care to a child born alive in the course of a pregnancy termination which was not an abortion." Failure to provide such care constituted a felony.

From the Illinois abortion law:

(2) (a) No abortion shall be performed or induced when the fetus is viable unless there is in attendance a physician other than the physician performing or inducing the abortion who shall take control of and provide immediate medical care for any child born alive as a result of the abortion. This requirement shall not apply when, in the medical judgment of the physician performing or inducing the abortion based on the particular facts of the case before him, there exists a medical emergency; [...] Any physician who intentionally performs or induces such an abortion and who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly fails to arrange for the attendance of such a second physician in violation of Section 6(2)(a) commits a Class 3 felony.

(b) Subsequent to the abortion, if a child is born alive, the physician required by Section 6(2)(a) to be in attendance shall exercise the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as would be required of a physician providing immediate medical care to a child born alive in the course of a pregnancy termination which was not an abortion. Any such physician who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly violates Section 6(2)(b) commits a Class 3 felony.

From Jonathan Martin's September 16 Politico blog post:

A new 527 aimed at attacking Barack Obama for abortion-related votes he cast as a state senator is up today with an ad in Ohio and New Mexico featuring a self-proclaimed abortion-survivor.

As a state senator, Obama opposed legislation that proponents said would protect legal protection to babies outside the womb.

Ohio and New Mexico, in addition to being two of the most hotly-contested swing states, also feature thousands of anti-abortion Catholic voters.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
The Politico
Person
Jonathan Martin
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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