Chicago Tribune Article Warning Voters About Barack Obama’s Abortion Position

Posted: August 29, 2008 by Rick Hogaboam in Abortion, Politics, Social Issues
Tags: , , ,

Voters should be troubled by Obama’s abortion stance

Can we just listen to ourselves? We’re debating whether some babies born alive have a right to medical attention.

How have we come to this? Can’t we all agree that everyone whose heart beats, brain functions and lungs respire at birth should have a chance to live? If we’re a compassionate, rational and just society, we would say, “Of course, every infant has a right to lifesaving medical attention. Even if it’s not wanted.”

But an unthinkable debate is raging as a part of the presidential campaign, centering on how Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama voted while he was an Illinois state senator on legislation designed to protect the lives and health of all newborns. The debate over Obama’s voting record has grown so arcane that we’ve lost sight of why this question ever came up: Some infants that survive abortion are denied medical assistance. They are left to die.

Jill Stanek, a former nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, described in 2001 during congressional testimony how it happens: In a “live-birth abortion,” doctors “do not attempt to kill the baby in the uterus. The goal is simply to prematurely deliver a baby who dies during the birth process or soon afterward.” Medication stimulates the cervix to open, allowing the baby to emerge, sometimes alive. “It is not uncommon for a live aborted baby to linger for an hour or two or even longer. At Christ Hospital, one . . . lived for almost an entire eight-hour shift.” Some actually are born healthy because they are aborted to preserve the “health” of the mother, or because the pregnancy was due to rape or incest. At best, they are left in a “comfort room,” complete with a camera (for pictures of the aborted baby) “baptismal supplies, gowns, and certificates, footprinting equipment and baby bracelets for mementos and a rocking chair,” where they are rocked to death. “Before the comfort room was established,” Stanek said, “babies were taken to the soiled utility room to die.”

Yes, there ought to be a law against this, and Congress passed one unanimously. It declares that a person is defined as “every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.” Born alive means any human being that after “expulsion or extraction” from the mother “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, Caesarean section, or induced abortion.”

Pretty simple, right?

Well, not really. Some people fear that this fundamental protection, ensuring to all the first of the rights of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” is in reality a sneak attack on a woman’s right to choose an abortion. To prevent this “Trojan horse,” they insisted, and got, in the federal law a guarantee against construing the law to “affirm, deny 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’. . .” This mumbo jumbo is supposed to mean that abortions can’t be restricted.

To mollify pro-choice concerns, including Obama’s, this was inserted in several versions of the Illinois legislation. But it didn’t matter, because the legislation died anyway, with Obama’s help. Whether or not he refused to vote for a version that contained the right-to-an-abortion provision isn’t what’s important here. What is important is that Obama put the supposed and vague threat to an abortion right ahead of a real and concrete threat to the most innocent of human lives.

Obama’s response to all this is to sidestep any discussion about when human personhood begins, the key question in the abortion debate. Some say it begins at the moment of conception; others say it begins at birth. (Still others look for a middle ground, suggesting it begins when brain activity starts.) But by arguing against the born-alive legislation because it might in some distant and ambiguous way obstruct abortion, Obama implies that the right to an abortion trumps an infant’s right to life, even after he is born.

Such logic is breathtaking. It says that even after birth, a mother’s right to rid herself of the baby supersedes any right that a child, now independent of the mother’s body and domain, has a right to live. Where America stands on this issue truly is a measure of its sense of justice and compassion. On this score, Obama fails.

Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer. His blog can be viewed at http://dennisbyrne.blogspot.com

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