Appearing on C-SPAN last weekend I mentioned that Barack Obama had opposed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act when he was an Illinois state senator - a position he has attempted to deny or obfuscate ever since.
The liberal blogger who appeared on the program with me erupted with indignation. She didn’t deny Mr. Obama opposed the bill. She denied, hotly, that babies are ever born alive after an attempted abortion. Since I have actually met Gianna Jessen, who survived an attempted abortion, I invited viewers to contact me directly if they wanted evidence. My in box has been bursting.
The denial goes very deep. Any number of e-mailers expressed their contemptuous certainty that “born alive” infants were an invention of pro-life activists. OK, enter “abortion survivors” into your browser and see what you get. Or, if you prefer a traditional media source, consult the Daily Mail in Britain. The Mail has reported that in just the last year 66 infants had been left to die after abortions in Great Britain.
When Congress was considering the Born Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Jill Stanek and Allison Baker, two nurses at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. They described several instances in which babies who were moving and breathing after induced abortions were left to die. The committee report quoted Jill Stanek: “Mrs. Stanek testified about another aborted baby who was thought to have had spina bifida, but was delivered with an intact spine. On another occasion, an aborted baby was left to die on the counter of the Utility Room wrapped in a disposable towel.” The committee report also quoted Shelly Lowe, a lab technician at Bethesda North Medical Center in Cincinnati. A young woman who had undergone just the first cervix-opening phase of a partial-birth abortion gave birth in the emergency room. The doctor placed the 22-week-old baby in a specimen dish to be taken to the lab.
According to the report, when Ms. Lowe “saw the baby girl in the dish she was stunned when she saw the girl gasping for air. ‘I don’t think I can do that,’ Ms. Lowe reportedly said. ‘This baby is alive.’ ” Ms. Lowe asked permission to hold the baby until she died. She wrapped the child she dubbed “Baby Hope” in a blanket and sang to her. Breathing room air without any other supports, Baby Hope lived for three hours.
I’ve received a number of letters from viewers. This one caught my eye: “I am a pediatrician. When I was a pediatric resident on a neonatal intensive care rotation, we were routinely called to … resuscitate infants. In one instance I was called to pronounce a baby dead who had been born an hour earlier after a failed abortion. We were not called to resuscitate the baby immediately after the delivery as the intent was abortion. … I write to attest that babies are sometimes born alive after abortion and then put aside to die.”
The BAIPA was designed to ensure that in those rare cases in which a baby marked for abortion happens to survive - that the child will be immediately accorded full human and constitutional rights. The measure passed the U.S. House by a vote 380 to 15 but was blocked in the Senate.
When a “neutrality clause” was inserted to the effect that the law should not be construed to limit the scope of Roe v. Wade, the measure was passed by unanimous consent and signed into law in 2002.
At the time, Barack Obama was an Illinois state senator. An almost exact copy of the federal bill was introduced in 2001. Mr. Obama opposed it, saying, “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.” This even though the baby would be completely separated from the mother.
In 2003, the Illinois legislature added a neutrality clause to the bill, making it a virtual clone of the federal legislation. As chairman of the committee considering the bill, Mr. Obama again opposed it, saying, “an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman.”
Barack Obama is a charming and intelligent man. But there is no other way to interpret his position on BAIPA than this: A woman who chooses an abortion is entitled to a dead child no matter what. That is an abortion extremist.
Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.