It’s a piece of political conventional wisdom that’s been repeated many times: The cover-up is usually worse than the crime. A series of votes by Barack Obama in the Illinois Senate, however, turns that famous statement on its head. As a state legislator, Obama spoke out against, and voted down, a bill that would have explicitly extended legal protections to born-alive premature infants. In other words, he cast a vote against banning infanticide. Making matters worse — if such a thing is possible — the explanation Obama has peddled over the years to justify his vote has recently been exposed as untrue.
Average Americans, many of whom hold complicated views on the issue of abortion, may wonder why such a bill would even be necessary in the first place. Once a child is born, she becomes an independent human being who's entitled to the same rights and legal protections afforded to all citizens, right? Wrong, said State Senator Obama. Earlier this decade, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act was introduced in the Illinois state legislature after a Chicago area nurse named Jill Stanek blew the whistle on a practice she personally witnessed at her hospital. Babies who managed to survive late term abortions were being abandoned in soiled linen closets and left to die.
Republicans in Springfield crafted a bill to end the inhumane practice, bringing SB 1095 up for a vote in March 2001. Barack Obama was the lone legislator who rose to speak against the bill, arguing it contained two flaws. First, he said the act’s language could be construed by some to be an "anti-abortion statute." Evidently, the prospect of voting in favor of a bill that might possibly be perceived in some quarters as anti-abortion was unsettling for him. In advancing this point, he ignored the fact that the bill's wording was tight, specific, and unambiguous: The law only applied to fully born persons, rendering the abortion angle moot. Second, the University of Chicago law lecturer dipped into his vast reservoir of legal knowledge and concluded that the law—intended to protect human beings who survived abortions—could not, in fact, survive “constitutional scrutiny." Obama’s analysis proved to be incorrect. A few months after he voted against the state bill, Congress passed a virtually identical bill at the federal level without a single dissenting vote, and the law remains on the books today.