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Media Ignore Obama's Radical Abortion Record

The liberal news media has subjected Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to intense scrutiny concerning her overall pro-life view on abortion, among other issues. On the other hand, they have been all but silent on Barack Obama's intensely liberal record on the abortion issue, particularly his support of partial-birth abortion and his opposition to legislation that would have protected infant abortion survivors from dying of neglect.

In MRC's October 9 Media Reality Check, "Media Silence on Abortion Aids Radical Obama," Rich Noyes and I outlined how the news media have been out to lunch on examining Barack Obama's radical pro-abortion stance during the Democratic campaign for the presidential nomination. The report found that the network evening newscasts "barely mentioned Obama's pro-abortion stance during the primaries — from the launch of his candidacy in January 2007 through the end of the primaries in June 2008, just six out of 1,289 network evening news stories about Obama (0.46%) mentioned his position on abortion; none discussed it in any detail." The media as a whole also punted on Obama's August 16, 2008 attack on pro-lifers, who in his view, were "lying" about his record as an Illinois state senator of opposing legislation, identical to a federal law, which would have protected infant survivors of abortion. Only a day later, Obama's own campaign backtracked and admitted that he had indeed voted against this legislation.

The Media Reality Check described how "Obama's stance protecting partial birth abortions puts him to the left of many liberal Democrats — 17 out of 47 Democratic Senators, including Obama's running-mate Joe Biden, voted to outlaw such abortions in 2003, a position backed by 75% of the public, according to a 2007 Pew survey." Only three network evening news stories mentioned how Obama supports such procedures, "including an April 21, 2007 CBS Evening News story briefly noting Obama's condemnation of the Supreme Court for upholding the federal law banning such abortions."

During the August 16, 2008 interview with CBN's David Brody, Obama went on the offensive against pro-life critics who, for many months, had been decrying his opposition to the Illinois Born-Alive Infant Protection Act during his tenure as an Illinois state statue: "I hate to say that people are lying, but here's a situation where folks are lying. I have said repeatedly that I would have been completely, fully in support of the federal bill. That was not the bill that was presented at the state level."

But the now-U.S. senator had indeed opposed the state legislation repeatedly. The Infant Protection Act, proposed by Republican state senator Patrick O'Malley in 2001, aimed to grant legal protections to premature infants who had survived abortions. Obama first voted against the Act that year when it came before the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee, and later voted "present" when the full Senate voted on it. In 2002, he voted no when it came before the Judiciary Committee again, and instead of voting "present" when the full Senate voted on it for a second time, he voted against it.

During the floor debate over the bill in 2001, Obama stated the legislation was "probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny." In response to this line of criticism, Senator O'Malley amended his bill that year to include language that would make it identical to the federal act which had been unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate in 2002 (Obama's running mate Joe Biden was a member of the Senate at the time). By this point, Obama had become the chair of the Health & Human Services Committee. Obama voted initially to approve this amendment, but then voted against the amended version of the Act. So much for the "constitutional scrutiny" argument (for detailed information on Obama's four votes on the Infant Protection act, see the outline on Jill Stanek's Web site).

The day after Obama's "lying" statement about pro-lifers, the now-defunct New York Sun reported that the Illinois senator's campaign finally told the truth about his votes against the Infant Protection Act: "His campaign yesterday [August 17, 2008] acknowledged that he had voted against an identical bill in the state Senate, and a spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said the senator and other lawmakers had concerns that even as worded, the legislation could have undermined existing Illinois abortion law." However, as the Reality Check recounted, the media still ran to Obama's defense, even after his own campaign had backtracked: "A CNN 'fact check' on that day's [August 20, 2008] Situation Room refused to conclude that Obama had unfairly attacked his critics as liars. 'Looking at the bills, the language is similar, but the Obama camp says...there were concerns about undermining Illinois abortion law,' reporter Mary Snow delicately suggested."

If Obama becomes the next president, passing state-level legislation related to abortion won't matter much anyway, since, during a speech to Planned Parenthood in 2007, he said that the "the first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act," which would overturn most, if not all federal, state, and local laws which regulate abortions. That is the true extent of Obama's support for abortion, and as they have done in the past, there has been little to no coverage of this radical abortion stance from the mainstream news media.

For one more example of the media's bias on this issue, see the August 14, 2008 CyberAlert, "CNN's One-Sided Take on SD Abortion Bill, Avoids Obama's Votes."

Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.