Pro-life groups are condemning Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama for saying that his biggest regret in his political career was supporting the right of the parents of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo to appeal in a federal court to keep her alive by sustaining her feeding tube.
The comment came during a debate Tuesday night when MSNBC moderator Tim Russert asked Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton whether there was "any word or vote that you'd like to take back" in your "careers in public service." Clinton had responded that she regretted her vote authorizing the war in Iraq, while Obama wanted to take back his 2005 vote regarding the Terry Schiavo case.
Obama said it was a "mistake" for Congress "to interject itself into that decision-making process of the families" to settle her fate.
Terri Schiavo's husband and legal guardian had for years battled with Schiavo's parents in Florida courts over pulling her feeding tube and essentially allowing her to die of starvation and dehydration. He contends that his wife had told him before her accident that she would not want to live in such a condition.
But Schiavo's parents had called her husband's motives into question by pointing out that he was living with a girlfriend whom he fathered two children with.
After emotional debates in Congress that set the country in an moral uproar, it was decided unanimously that her parents could bring the case to a federal court since they had exhausted the legal options within Florida state.
"It wasn't something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped," Obama said during the debate. "And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.... And I think that's an example of inaction, and sometimes that can be as costly as action."
Obama had been in the Senate less than two months when the vote took place.
Robert Schindler, Terri's father, criticized Obama's remark about regretting his decision in the Schiavo case.
"Everyone with a disability, or who knows someone with a disability, should be outraged that a potential U.S. president would so callously reject his own action taken in favor of life over death," Schinder said in a statement. "Highly visible public figures, especially those who may one day speak on behalf of all citizens, should not imply that some citizens are less worthy than others. As President, would Barack Obama stand for all of us or just some of us?"
Meanwhile, Bill Donohue, president of Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, highlighted that the vote was "merely procedural" and the bill was "case specific" and had no "bearing on any case other than Schiavo's."
Donohue went on to note that Obama did not say that he regretted his vote against a bill in the Illinois legislature that would provide medical care to infants who survive abortions. Also, the pro-life leader criticized Obama for not regretting his opposition to a bill that would mandate health care for a baby who survived an abortion.
"In conclusion, Senator Obama thinks it is none of the federal government's business to allow doctors to intentionally starve a person to death, nor is it the law's business to require doctors to attend to the health care of a fully born baby who has survived an abortion," Donohue said. "All this from the Minister of Hope."
Many conservative Christian groups have also criticized the Illinois senator for his support of abortion rights, although exit polls that he is popular among Christian primary voters.
Obama is expected by both Republicans and Democrats to win the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a recent Gallup Poll. Eighty-two percent of Republicans think Obama will win, while 70 percent of Democrats are convinced the Illinois senator will gain the party's nomination.
Currently, Obama has 1,369 delegates compared to Clinton's 1,267 delegates, according to CNN. A Democratic candidate needs 2,025 delegates to clinch the nomination.