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The following statement was issued on Monday, August 11, 2008, by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) in Washington, D.C.
In 2000, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA) was first introduced in Congress. This was a two-paragraph bill intended to clarify that any baby who is entirely expelled from his or her mother, and who shows any signs of life, is to be regarded as a legal "person" for all federal law purposes, whether or not the baby was born during an attempted abortion. (To view the original 2000 BAIPA, click here.)
In 2002, the bill was enacted, after a "neutrality clause" was added to explicitly state that the bill expressed no judgment, in either direction, about the legal status of a human prior to live birth. (The "neutrality" clause read, “Nothing in this section 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.”) The bill passed without a dissenting vote in either house of Congress. (To view the final federal BAIPA as enacted, click here. To view a chronology of events pertaining to the federal BAIPA, click here.)
Meanwhile, Barack Obama, as a member of the Illinois State Senate, actively opposed a state version of the BAIPA during three successive regular legislative sessions. His opposition to the state legislation continued into 2003 -- even after NARAL had withdrawn its initial opposition to the federal bill, and after the final federal bill had been enacted in August 2002.
When Obama was running for the U.S. Senate in 2004, his Republican opponent criticized him for supporting "infanticide." Obama countered this charge by claiming that he had opposed the state BAIPA because it lacked the pre-birth neutrality clause that had been added to the federal bill. As the Chicago Tribune reported on October 4, 2004, "Obama said that had he been in the U.S. Senate two years ago, he would have voted for the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, even though he voted against a state version of the proposal. The federal version was approved; the state version was not. . . . The difference between the state and federal versions, Obama explained, was that the state measure lacked the federal language clarifying that the act would not be used to undermine Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that legalized abortion."
During Obama's 2008 run for President, his campaign and his defenders have asserted repeatedly and forcefully that it is a distortion, or even a smear, to suggest that Obama opposed a state born-alive bill that was the same as the federal bill. See, for example, this June 30, 2008 "factcheck" issued by the Obama campaign, in the form that it still appeared on the Obama website on August 7, 2008. The Obama "cover story" has often been repeated as fact, or at least without challenge, in major organs of the news media. (Two recent examples: CNN reported on June 30, 2008, "Senator Obama says if he had been in the U.S. Senate in 2002, he, too, would have voted in favor of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act because unlike the Illinois bill, it included language protecting Roe v. Wade." The New York Times reported in a story on August 7, 2008 that Obama "said he had opposed the bill because it was poorly drafted and would have threatened the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that established abortion as a constitutional right. He said he would have voted for a similar bill that passed the United States Senate because it did not have the same constitutional flaw as the Illinois bill.")
National Right to Life and other pro-life observers have always regarded Obama's "defense" as contrived, since the original two-paragraph BAIPA on its face applied only after a live birth; the "neutrality clause" added in 2001 merely made this explicit, and therefore the new clause did not change the substance of the original bill.Moreover, the overwhelming majority of liberal, pro-abortion members of the U.S. House of Representatives did not embrace the initial NARAL position that the original bill was an attack on Roe v. Wade. The Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee, then as now, were a solidly liberal group, yet only one of them voted against the original BAIPA, without the "neutrality clause," and he cited a different reason. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who supported the bill and who described himself as "as pro-choice as anybody on Earth" -- argued that under his understanding of Roe "if an abortion is performed, or a natural birth occurred, at any age, [even] three months, and the product of that was living outside the mother, and somebody came and shot him, I don't think there's any doubt that person would be prosecuted for murder." When the original bill -- with no "neutrality clause" -- came up on the House floor on September 26, 2000, it passed 380-15.
These facts should give pause to those who have unskeptically accepted Obama's claim that the Illinois BAIPA bills that he opposed in 2001 and 2002, which were modeled on the original federal BAIPA, were crafted to attack Roe v. Wade.
For the moment we can set that debate aside, however, for this reason: Documents obtained by NRLC now demonstrate conclusively that Obama's entire defense is based on a brazen factual misrepresentation.
The documents prove that in March 2003, state Senator Obama, then the chairman of the Illinois state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, presided over a committee meeting in which the "neutrality clause" (copied verbatim from the federal bill) was added to the state BAIPA, with Obama voting in support of adding the revision. Yet, immediately afterwards, Obama led the committee Democrats in voting against the amended bill, and it was killed, 6-4.
The bill that Chairman Obama killed, as amended, was virtually identical to the federal law; the only remaining differences were on minor points of bill-drafting style. To see the language of the two bills side by side, click here.
To see the official "Senate Committee Action Report" on this meeting, click on one of the links below. (The document is dated March 12, 2003, which is the day that the committee convened, but Chairman Obama recessed the meeting until March 13, which is the day that these votes actually occurred.)
To view the text of SB 1082 as it was originally introduced (without the neutrality clause), click here. To view the text of Senate Amendment No. 1 (the neutrality clause copied from the federal law), which Obama and his colleagues added to the bill at the March 13 meeting (before killing the bill), click here.
NRLC has also obtained two additional documents that report information on these events that is fully consistent with the Senate Committee Action Report.
To see the "Senate Republican Staff Analysis: Senate Bill No. 1082," click here. (If this Word document requests a password, simply hit "cancel" and it will be displayed.) The first portion of this analysis was written before the March 12-13, 2003, meeting of the committee that Senator Obama chaired. The committee's actions, amending the bill to exactly track the federal born-alive law, and then defeating the bill, are reported on the bottom half of the second page.)
Finally, to see an Associated Press dispatch dated March 13, 2003, reporting on the 6-4 committee vote that killed the bill, click here.
Less than two years after this meeting, Obama began to publicly claim that he opposed the state BAIPA because it lacked the "neutrality" clause, and that he would have supported the federal version (had he been a member of Congress) because it contained the "neutrality" clause. His claim has been accepted on its face by various media outlets, producing stories that have in turn been quoted by the Obama campaign and Obama defenders in attacking anyone who asserts that Obama opposed born-alive legislation similar to the federal bill. It has also been forcefully repeated by advocacy groups such as NARAL (see, for example, this June 30, 2008 "alert" from NARAL).
It appears that as of August 7, 2008, only one writer -- Terence Jeffrey, a contributing editor to HumanEvents.com -- had correctly reported the essence of this story, in a column posted on January 16, 2008 (read it here), but his report was ignored by the Obama campaign and overlooked by others at the time.
Now, the uncovering of the Senate Committee Action Report and the contemporary Associated Press report shed new light on Senator Obama's four-year effort to cover up his real record of refusing to protect live-born survivors of abortion.