The Abortion Vote the GOP is Planning to Use to Bring Down Obama

By Jennifer Parker

Jan 10, 2008 9:50am

In her successful effort to defeat Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in the New Hampshire primary by focusing on Democratic women voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, tried to paint him as insufficiently committed to abortion rights.

Clinton’s campaign described Obama as "unwilling to take a stance on choice."

In a Granite State mailing that cited votes Obama cast in the Illinois state legislature, Clinton’s campaign claimed, "Seven times he had the opportunity to stand up against Republican anti-choice legislation in the Illinois State Senate. Seven times he voted ‘present’ — not ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but ‘present.’"

One of these votes will assuredly come under further scrutiny should Obama win the Democratic nomination — but from the opposite direction as the criticism from Clinton.

Republican operatives have been examining Obama’s record in Springfield, Illinois, and think they have caught Obama voting the wrong side of an abortion bill that will turn off the public "like partial birth abortion cubed," in the words of one GOP operative.

The bill would have required medical care for babies born during unsuccessful abortions — an issue no Democrat trying to win over independents and Republicans would want to spend any time discussing.

The Republican party, of course, plans on attacking whoever wins the Democratic nomination. Clinton will be called partisan and shrill; Edwards a slick trial lawyer; Obama too inexperienced. Whoever wins will be painted as too liberal for America.

But Obama’s abortion vote, the GOP hopes, may prove to be the sort that Clinton alludes to when she suggests he has not been vetted, his having been blessed by the Gods of Fate during his 2004 US Senate campaign.

In Obama’s 2004 Senate race, both a multimillionaire Democratic primary opponent and a multimillionaire GOP general election opponent self-combusted in ugly divorce-related scandals and the latter’s replacement was out-of-state ultra-conservative Republican Alan Keyes who was not difficult for Obama to defeat.

Two days after the New Hampshire primary, Obama still has yet to have a negative TV ad run against him.

The Illinois legislation would have mandated medical treatment to any child born as a result of a failed abortion. Clinton faults Obama for having voted "present" on the bill — abortion-rights allies in Illinois say Obama was unquestionably on their side and voted present as part of a legislative strategy — but on other occasions Obama voted against the bill.

Republicans suspect Americans will find the vote indicative of out-of-the-mainstream liberal views.

On March 27, 2001, the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee passed out of committee legislation that would have banned any abortion procedure "that, in the medical judgment of the attending physician, has a reasonable likelihood of resulting in a live born child shall be undertaken" unless another doctor were present to assess the viability of the fetus and provide he or she with medical care. If a live child  was born, the law would have mandated that the doctor provide medical care for the baby, which would be legally "recognized as a human person."

Read it HERE

That bill passed out of committee by a vote of 7 to 4; Obama voted against it. (See the vote tally HERE).

That same month, voting on a bill (read it HERE) that would "protect the life of a child born alive as the result of an induced labor abortion" on the floor of the Illinois Senate, Obama was one of 13 legislators to vote "present." The bill passed 33-6.

Obama at the time said he took particular issue with the part of the bill that defined a "born alive" child as “every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.”

"Whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or other elements of the Constitution," Obama said at the time, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, "we’re saying they are persons entitled to the kinds of protections provided to a child, a 9-month-old child delivered to term …That determination then essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place."

In March 2002, a similar bill came before the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee that would have required "a physician inducing an abortion that results in a live born child" to "provide for the soonest practicable attendance of a physician other than the physician performing or inducing the abortion to immediately assess the child’s viability and provide medical care for the child."

That bill (read it HERE) was passed out of the committee 6-3, with one "present" vote. Obama voted against it. (See the vote tally HERE.)

That bill was never voted upon in the full Senate, but the next month — in a 31-11 vote, with 10 "present" votes — Obama voted against a bill that stated "all children who are born alive are entitled to equal protection under the law regardless of the circumstances surrounding the birth." (Read the bill HERE.)

A federal version of the bill, after all, became law in August 2002. "This important legislation ensures that every infant born alive — including an infant who survives an abortion procedure — is considered a person under federal law," President George W. Bush said at the signing ceremony. "This reform was passed with the overwhelming support of both political parties, and it is about to become the law of the land."

The National Abortion Rights Action League did not oppose the federal law; writing that the "committee and floor debate served to clarify the bill’s intent and assure us that it is not targeted at Roe v. Wade or a woman’s right to choose."

Obama has said that had he been in the US Senate at that time, he would have voted for the federal "Born-Alive Infants Protection Act," despite his votes on a similar measure in the Illinois legislature in 2001 and 2002. Obama told the Chicago Tribune in 2004 the state measure "lacked the federal language clarifying that the act would not be used to undermine Roe vs. Wade."

– jpt

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