Last week, I wrote that Barack Obama, as an Illinois state senator, opposed a bill to define as a "person" a fully born baby who survived an abortion. Obama opposed this bill, I wrote, even after an amendment was offered to it that mirrored language included in a virtually identical federal bill that won a 98 to zero vote in the U.S. Senate after Sen. Barbara Boxer said the language in question protected Roe v. Wade.
Obama, I reported, killed the Illinois bill by holding it in a committee he chaired, never calling a vote so it could be sent to the full Senate. This, I have since been informed, was incorrect.
Although the Illinois General Assembly's online bill tracking system indicates the bill was "held" in Obama's Health and Human Services Committee in 2003, former Sen. Rick Winkel, who sponsored it, and Sen. Dale Righter, then the committee's ranking Republican, both tell me that written records kept by Illinois Senate Republicans indicate Obama did bring the bill up for a vote and then voted against it. The bill, as amended, lost that vote four to six. In 2001, Republican Sen. Rick Santorum offered the federal version of the Born Alive Infants bill as an amendment. Boxer gave a floor speech explaining why it did not threaten Roe and why Democrats would vote for it.
"(H)is amendment certainly does not attack Roe in any way," said Boxer. "His amendment makes it very clear that nothing in this amendment gives any rights that are not yet afforded to a fetus. Therefore, I, as being a pro-choice senator on this side, representing my colleagues here, have no problem whatsoever with this amendment."
When Obama was in the Illinois Senate, the Born Alive Infants bill came up three successive years.
In 2001, three bills were proposed to help babies who survived induced labor abortions. One, like the federal Born Alive Infants bill, simply said a living "homo sapiens" wholly emerged from his mother should be treated as a "'person,' 'human being,' 'child' and 'individual.'"
On all three bills, Obama voted "present," effectively the same as a "no." Defining "a pre-viable fetus" that survived an abortion as a "person" or "child," he argued, "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 anti-abortion statute."
In 2002, Obama voted "no" on the bill.
When Democrats took control of the Illinois Senate in 2003, Obama became chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. The Born Alive Infants bill and an amendment to add exactly the language Boxer said protected Roe in the federal bill (which President Bush had signed into law in 2002) was referred to this committee.
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