WaPo Fact Check Rates Obama's Abortion Votes Based on Opinion

The Washington Post's fact check on President Obama's vote on Illinois's Born-Alive Protection Act ignores its own facts to come out with an anti-Republican takeaway.

To see why, we first have to take a look at the facts presented in the article about Obama's voting record. In 2001 and 2002, a Born-Alive Protection Act was introduced in Illinois. Obama voted against both bills (which were identical), stating at the time that he was concerned about some specific language which could be interpreted to infringe on a woman's right to an abortion. Then in 2003, the Born-Alive Act was introduced again, this time without the language Obama claimed was problematic. Here's Hicks' account:

This new legislation removed the controversial line about recognizing live-born children as humans and giving them immediate protection under the law. It also addressed Obama’s concern about previable fetuses, adding a “neutrality clause” that said the measure would not affect the legal status of fetuses prior to delivery.

Nonetheless, Obama voted against the new bill, which happened to be an almost exact replica — almost to the word — of a federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act that passed in 2002 without opposition in either political party.

Hicks goes on to say that Obama later claimed, in a 2008 interview, that he would have voted for the federal version of the Born-Alive Act had he been in the Senate at the time. He also claimed the bill he voted against in Illinois was different. It wasn't. In fact, the bills were identical. Hicks says that if he were rating Obama's truthfulness in the 2008 interview it would get four Pinocchios. At this point, several things should be clear.

  • Obama's objection to the 2001 and 2002 bills were not based upon the offending language he used to justify his no vote. When the language was removed, he still voted against it.
  • Obama is to the far left on abortion, even within his own party. The federal version of the bill passed without opposition, but the identical state version was voted down by Obama.
  • Obama felt the need to cover his tracks by lying about the 2003 bill and claiming he would have voted for the identical federal version. This shows he recognized his own votes would be seen as extreme by the public and felt the need to lie to cover them up.

Given all this, how does Hicks rule on the central point of the fact-check? It's a train wreck:

[Abortion survivor Melissa] Ohden said that Obama “voted to deny basic Constitutional protections for babies born alive from an abortion.” This is true in the sense that the Illinois bills would have guaranteed certain protections for these infants. But Ohden’s claim lacks context: Obama’s objections to the bill suggest that he wasn’t so much bent on denying rights to newborns as wanting to block any legislation that could erode the premise of the Roe v. Wade decision. Ohden earns one Pinocchio for her slanted take on the president’s position. [emphasis added]

First of all, who asked Hicks to rule on Obama's intentions? His job, supposedly, is to separate fact from fiction. The Ohden ad says Obama "voted to deny" born-alive infants these rights. Hicks agrees that he did so. Case closed. There is no justification for giving any Pinocchios to the ad on this basis. 

But even if you wanted to judge Obama's intent, you would have to conclude that Obama really was "bent on denying rights to newborns." How do we know this? Because even after the offending language in the 2001/2002 bill was stripped from the 2003 version, Obama still voted no. His vote in 2003 undercuts his claims in 2001/2002, yet Hicks refers to the 2001 objections without noting that they seemed not to matter in 2003. But Hicks isn't done. He makes a similar ruling regarding Mike Huckabee:

Huckabee said Obama “believes that human life is disposable and expendable … even beyond the womb.” But this is a mischaracterization of the president’s stance on the Born-Alive Infants Protection legislation in Illinois.

Granted, we don’t know why Obama voted against the 2003 bill that included a clause to protect abortion rights. The measure never made it out of committee, and comments from the meetings are not recorded. Nonetheless, we find it hard to fathom that the former senator expressed a belief that human life is disposable outside the womb.

Huckabee earns Three Pinocchios for his twisted interpretation of Obama’s no votes. [emphasis added]

Huckabee at least raised the issue of what Obama believes, something the Ohden ad never does. But "We find it hard to fathom" is not a fact! It is an opinion and a rather provincial one at that. The Post's staff is not known for its fondness for pro-lifers or their views. While it may indeed be hard for them to fathom that Obama feels this way, the record of his 2003 vote is an expression that he does or, at the least, that his prior objections were not the heart of the matter.

As they stand, the testimony of the votes is more amenable to Mike Huckabee's interpretation than to the contrary opinion offered by the Post. Why would Obama refuse to protect the lives of infants born alive even after the language was amended to explicitly forbid any interference in Roe v. Wade? Why would he lie about it later? These are good questions which no one seems to be asking the President. Meanwhile, the Post has some nerve calling Huckabee and Ohden liars based on nothing but their opinion that Obama's votes don't really represent his beliefs.


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