“Obama” and “infanticide” are being matched in the latest venom eruption on hate-monger sites. For the record, Senator Obama did NOT vote for infanticide while in the Illinois State legislature.
At issue is his vote on a bill entitled, “Born Alive Infants Protection Act” – BAIPA, for short — which was first introduced into the Illinois legislature in 2001. I have read the exact wording of the bill and the term “infanticide” does not appear anywhere. Fear-mongering with this word is, at the least, a stretch; and, at the worst, a lie. It is a concern for Catholic America because some of the verbal terrorism comes with a Catholic label.
The legislation would have required the state to provide health care to children born alive after an abortion. Now, existing Illinois law already covered all children. But the BAIPA was intended to create a special status for the survivors of abortion – mostly late-term abortion. The BAIPA clarified that these survivors were “children.” If that was all the law intended, I think it should have been passed and Obama’s self-identified faith should have led him to vote for it.
But things are not always as they seem. Although phrased in legalese, there were three additional and problematic provisions. First, the BAIPA would have immediately usurped the rights of the parents without any hearing or legal process. Second, the act would have mandated taxpayer funds be used for the health care as long as the needy child was alive, administered by still another government bureaucracy. Third, it gave a green light to trial lawyers to sue just about everybody on two legs. Catholic teaching always protects the rights of parents against big government. Moreover, I have enough of my Barry Goldwater vote left in me to be wary of lining the pockets of trial lawyers.
Some might conclude that the BAIPA is part of the old politics of poison-pill legislation. The intention is to antagonize voters in the cultural wars. (A similar BAIPA bill in Kansas was vetoed by Catholic Governor Sibelius – an Obama supporter who also reaped the “infanticide” label.) The spinning says: “Vote against this bill and you are guilty of infanticide!” It’s like saying “Approving U.S. dues to the U.N. is a vote for world government!” Or the historical case from the 1920s that “Opposing Prohibition is a vote for drunkenness and immorality!” This argument, with the appropriate simian-like caricatures of the Irish, was used against Catholics way-back-then. Charity requires us to avoid recourse to the same hateful logic against those with whom we differ.
The logic simply doesn’t stand. If Obama is guilty of infanticide for opposing mandated health care in the relatively few cases of abortion survivors, then isn’t McCain guilty of far worse by denying government mandated health care to 46 million Americans? I reject this logic: McCain’s plan does not amount to genocide of the poor and Obama’s vote is not infanticide. With his characteristic serenity, Senator Obama refused to descend into the mud of accusations, demands for retraction, etc. That kind of old politics produces tribalistic hatred rather than participatory progress and it’s so unChristian!
I can understand faith-based passion about political issues. The unjust war in Iraq, torture of prisoners, and experimentation on stem cells — as well as abortion – all are issues on which different Catholics have strong opinions. But you have to take them all together to get a full picture of Catholicism in America. A single issue approach distorts the seamless web of life which we are bound to defend. I also believe that exaggerating an issue, trivializes it. Like the little boy who cried “Wolf!” once too often, ranting and raving without logical grounding weakens, rather than strengthens, our Catholic cause. Inflated rhetoric and flawed logic may not be against the civil law of libel, but God’s commandments have always made it a sin to lie.