"At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?" Most people have a ready answer to this question. A "pro-life" supporter will generally point to conception, while a "pro-choice" proponent will often point to birth. There are a variety of opinions, but the average person does have an opinion. Not Barack Obama. He wouldn't answer this most basic question about human rights.
Senator Obama's response to Reverend Rick Warren's question during the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency was, "Well, I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade." He went on to state that he is "pro-choice", but that both sides should "find common ground" by seeking to "reduce the number of abortions." Still he refused to answer the question of what constitutes a human being worthy of rights and protections.
You would think a man who studied at Harvard and Columbia and who is running for the office of President of the United States would have taken the time to figure out his position on this controversial question. After all, abortion remains one of the most polarizing issues of our time. This single issue is dispositive—one way or the other—for millions of voters. Perhaps that accounts for the ambiguity.
If Mr. Obama is ambiguous about the issue, the scientific evidence is not. Science demonstrates unequivocally that life begins at conception. Within 24 hours after fertilization the human egg begins to divide, producing more and more cells. Through this process, the embryo and the outer membranes which nourish and protect it are formed. When the egg is fertilized, 23 chromosomes from each parent join to form the 46 chromosomes of a unique new person. These chromosomes will dictate many of the child's physical characteristics, including sex, eye and hair color, height, and even intelligence to some extent. This process is simple, yet profound, and it occurs at conception.
Notwithstanding the uncontroverted scientific evidence, Senator Obama insists he simply is not qualified to form an opinion on when a baby becomes a human. Perhaps his refusal to answer the question is rooted in a desire to hide the implications of his voting record. While in the Illinois Senate, he first voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act, and later refused to bring it forward in committee for a vote. This Act would have mandated medical care for babies who survive an attempted abortion (they are "born alive"), and it would have prevented hospitals and doctors from putting these babies aside to die. The national version of this bill—the Born Alive Infant Protection Act—passed through the U.S. House with only fifteen dissenting votes, and it passed through the U.S. Senate unanimously. Even the extremist abortion advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America did not oppose passage of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Nevertheless, Senator Obama, proving to be more extreme, opposed the Illinois bill, thereby denying legal protection for these babies.
Refusing medical care to babies who are born alive after a failed abortion is infanticide, plain and simple. Barack Obama's rhetoric and voting record indicate he believes otherwise. The Senator, who once equated having a baby to being punished, feels that denying a woman and her doctor the right to kill her newborn child would wrongly burden the woman. He summed up his opposition by saying, "What we are doing here [with this bill] is to create one more burden on a woman and I can't support that."
Senator Obama's voting record doesn't end there. In the Illinois Senate, he opposed the partial-birth abortion ban, and in the U.S. Congress he co-sponsored the Freedom of Choice Act which would have removed nearly all state and federal restrictions on abortion. He also voted against legislation in Congress which would have required an abortionist to notify the parents of an underage girl seeking an abortion. If Senator Obama is incapable of determining when a baby gains human rights, why is he capable of making these weighty legislative decisions?
Truth be told, Senator Obama appears to have preferred bobbing and weaving to offering a straight answer. A straight answer was inevitably going to alienate at least one group of voters who hold strong views. But is that the kind of leadership America needs? Ambiguous answers in the face of hard questions?
Please Mr. Obama. Tell it to us straight. At what point does a baby get human rights? Lives depend on the way you answer that question.
Ken Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC, the former President of the Family Research Council, and a nationally recognized trial lawyer.