Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Peter Singer on Obama's Phone-a-Friend Shortlist?

Firelance posts an interesting, provocative bit about how Barack Obama, as an Illinois state senator, helped kill a bill that would have required attending physicians to give medical attention to aborted fetuses born alive. In fact Obama voted "present" the first time the bill came up (it failed to pass) and "no" the second time a year later (it failed again). After Congress passed its own Born-Alive Infant Protection Act in 2002, the Illinois senate sent another version of its bill to the Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Mr. Obama, where it died.

The only senator who took the floor against the 2001 version of the bill, Obama argues, "Viability is the line that has been drawn by the Supreme Court to determine whether or not an abortion can or cannot take place." In other words, doctors only give medical attention to human persons. Conversely, by law, we do not abort viable human persons. It makes no sense to pass a bill that requires doctors to give medical attention to a fetus that has already been determined to be previable. Obama argues that the bill up for discussion represents an attempt to define previable fetuses as viable human persons, which would, essentially, make it an anti-abortion bill.

I think his argument works. But I think he arrives, brilliantly, at the wrong conclusion. 1093 was written as a result of one nurse's effort to make medical attention available to fetuses aborted alive. She noticed that wanted babies born at the same developmental stage as those being aborted were given medical attention. She wanted the aborted children to have the same shot at life as those whose parents wanted them. Read her story here. Read the context of Obama's statement here, and the entire discussion of SB1093 here.