Despite his claims of being a uniter out to change the divisiveness of partisan politics, Democratic front-runner Barack Obama’s voting record is surprisingly partisan. The Senator from Illinois ranked as the most liberal member of the Senate in 2007 according to National Journal’s annual rankings, voting along party lines 95.5% of the time. To put that in perspective, Hillary Clinton, not exactly a centrist icon, ranked 16th, at 82.8%. In fact, on one of the most divisive issues in American politics, abortion, Senator Obama stands even to the left of NARAL, the influential pro-abortion lobby.
In 2003 President Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act into law, which was upheld by the Supreme Court last year. Before that, however, there was a serious moral issue involving babies who survived attempted late-term abortions. As several nurses testified before Congress, it was common practice at the time that if a fetus survived a partial-birth abortion, during which labor is induced and the fetus is terminated on its way out of the womb, the fetus would be set aside to die. In one particularly horrific incident, the fetus was placed on a shelf in a storage closet to await its fate.
Eventually this moral dilemma caused enough of an uproar to attract the attention of legislators nationwide. In 2002, two virtually identical bills were being debated to address the issue. Both bills required doctors to provide medical care for fetuses who survived partial-birth abortions. Fetuses at the same stage of development are often treated in the event of premature birth. These bills would give the same rights to fetuses who were intended to be terminated, but weren’t.
At the federal level, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act met with little resistance, receiving only 15 “no” votes in the House, and passing unanimously in the Senate. In Illinois, however, Obama – then a state senator – voted “no” on the Induced Infant Liability Act as part of the Judiciary Committee. Actually he voted “present” once, then “no” when the bill came up again. The bill was then kicked to the Health and Human Services Committee, which was chaired by Senator Obama. The Senator killed it in committee before it ever came to a vote again.
Senator Obama’s reasoning for voting against the bill was that it was a veiled attempt to undermine Roe vs. Wade, threatening a woman’s right to choose. However, the bill clearly stated in paragraph “C” that it only applied to “a live child born as a result of an abortion.” The federal bill had a little extra clarification in this regard, but Obama blocked an attempt by the Illinois bill’s author to amend his bill to contain the same wording. Even NARAL concluded that, “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.”
As a matter of substance, the Senator’s votes on this issue did not matter. The federal governments passage of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act made Illinois’ rejection of its twin bill obsolete. However, if Senator Obama indeed wants to be the candidate who transcends ideology, he needs to explain the discrepancies in his centrist rhetoric and his ultra-left voting record. Issues such as this one make Americans wonder if the senator they see on stage is the same one who sits on committees.