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United States presidential election, 2008

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2008 Primary Election

In 2007-08, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton competed for the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton cleverly resurrected the "Born Alive" controversy surrounding Obama that had lain largely dormant since 2004 (notwithstanding the continuing mentions by Jill Stanek), by accusing Obama of not being pro-choice for voting "Present" on a number of abortion-related bills - including the Born Alive ones,[1][2] and cowardly ducking the votes.[3] This led to criticism of Obama by two pro-choice organizations, Emily's List, and the National Organization for Women.[4][5][6] The Washington Post Fact-Checker noted that Obama had actually used the 'Present' voting strategy against 7 different abortion related bills, two versions of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act (SB 230 and HB 382), two versions of the parental notice of abortion act (HB 1900 and SB 562), and three of the "Born Alive" bills (SB 1093, 1094, and 1095).[7] However, Pam Sutherland, the long-time head of Illinois Planned Parenthood, came to Obama's aid, criticizing Clinton for making the attack, and stating repeatedly that Obama's present votes were part of a broader strategy used by Planned Parenthood to keep Illinois voters from knowing their state senators were voting against the controversial and popular bills.[8][9]

"He came to me and said: ‘My members are being attacked. We need to figure out a way to protect members and to protect women. A ‘present’ vote was hard to pigeonhole which is exactly what Obama wanted. What it did was give cover to moderate Democrats who wanted to vote with us but were afraid to do so" because of how their votes would be used against them electorally. A ‘present’ vote would protect them. Your senator voted ‘present.’ Most of the electorate is not going to know what that means."

-Pam Sutherland, President/CEO of Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, 1980-2012[10]

This was also reiterated by Steve Trombley, the President of Planned Parenthood Chicago, that it was a strategy to deceive Illinoisans about the controversial bills.[11] Sutherland further praised Obama for the strategy, saying it made him a "leader".[12] It is probable that Clinton actually was being sarcastic when she made the remarks about Obama not being as pro-choice as her for voting 'Present' instead of 'No' on the Born Alive bills, since as Jill Stanek noted, "Clinton is being so audacious trying to claim that Obama is less pro-choice when on the very same bill she voted pro-life. It's just astounding." By forcing him to defend his pro-choice record, she made it evident how extreme he was in voting against the Born Alive bills she and the entire U.S. Senate had voted unanimously in favor of.[1] Clinton also made the claim repeatedly that while Obama was leading in Delegates she was winning the Popular Vote[13][14], though this was in part because Obama hadn't been registered in Michigan.[15][16]

On June 7, 2008, Hillary Clinton withdrew from the Primaries, conceding the race and endorsing her opponent[17], when Obama passed the 2,118 Delegates required; winning 2,201 delegates to Clinton's 1,896.[18]

2008 General Election

During the 2008 General Election, Obama's voting record on the "Born Alive" bills came once more to the forefront. On June 30, 2008, CNN gave voice to the growing controversy, and revealed the defense Obama had been using since 2004-2008, that the Illinois bills he'd voted against were different from the federal bill, was false, since he'd brought up for a vote a bill word for word identical to the federal bill in the Health and Human Services Committee he chaired, and voted against it, defeating it.

Carol Costello, CNN: "In 2001, when Obama was an Illinois state senator, he and his colleagues considered a bill called the 'Born Alive Infant Protection Act', which 'Provided that a live child born as a result of an induced abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.' The bill caused an uproar in Illinois, fueled by dramatic testimony by a former Chicago nurse, Jill Stanek... And Senator Obama says if he had been in the U.S. Senate in 2002 he too would have voted in favor of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act because unlike the Illinois bill, it included language protecting Roe v. Wade."

Bill Bennett, CNN: "The more you look into this, the worse it is for Barack Obama to deny it, 'cause if you look into the record, and Carol did a good job, you will see the 2003 bill had exactly the same language as the federal bill, and Barack Obama voted against it. This was not about Roe v. Wade, this was not about abortion, this was about protecting these babies when they are alive, after 7 months, 5 months, 6 months; whether it be an abortion, or through birth, or through any other means. And Barack Obama, what he is saying is just false, check the record. The more you dig into it, the worse it looks. He should just say - whatever he wants; something else. I was naive, I didn't realize how close it was to the federal act; he cannot say it was different from the federal act, it was the same."[19][20]

In July, the National Right to Life Committee began calling attention to Bill Bennett's claim, that Obama had voted against a bill identical to the federal Born Alive Infant Protection Act, and accusing the Obama campaign of a "cover-up".[21]

On August 16, 2008, CNN's David Brody confronted Obama about the issue during the Rick Warren-hosted McCain/Obama debates, with Obama providing a number of different defenses, including a new one that laws already existed in Illinois to protect newborn children.

Barack Obama: ...they have not been telling the truth. 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 and fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported, which was to say that you should provide assistance to any infant that was born, even if it was as a consequence of an induced abortion. That was not the bill that was presented at the state level. What that bill also was doing was trying to undermine Roe v. Wade. By the way, we also had a law already in place in Illinois that ensured life-saving treatment was given to infants. So for people to suggest that I and the Illinois Medical Society, so Illinois' doctors, were somehow in favor of withholding life-saving support from an infant born alive - is ridiculous.[22][23]

When the NRLC publicly challenged the Obama camp on August 17th, to declare the new documents forgeries, or admit he misrepresented his voting record and apologize for calling critics liars, the Obama campaign admitted the same day he "misspoke" and had voted against an identical bill to the "federal bill that everybody supported" but focused on Obama's new claim, that Illinois law was already sufficient to protect newborn children. The NRLC promptly declared "Senator Barack Obama's four-year effort to cover up his full role in killing legislation to protect born-alive survivors of abortions continues to unravel."[24]

Indeed, Mr. Obama appeared to misstate his position in the CBN interview on Saturday when he said the federal version he supported "was not the bill that was presented at the state level." His campaign yesterday 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. Those concerns did not exist for the federal bill, because there is no federal abortion law.[25]

Obama made an effort to portray John McCain as similar to the George W. Bush, drawing attention to McCain's refusal to criticize the unpopular president. McCain was particularly criticized for saying of how many years we should be willing to stay in Iraq, "Make it a hundred."[26]

Barack Obama: John McCain went on television and said that there has been great progress economically over the last seven-and-a-half year years. John McCain thinks our economy has made great progress under George W. Bush? How could somebody who has been traveling across this country, somebody who came to Erie, Pennsylvania, say we’ve made great progress?[27]

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Berman, Russell (2008, January 17). "Clinton: Obama Should Vote 'No' On Abortion Issue She Backed." New York Sun.
  2. Hernandez, Raymond & Drew, Christopher (2007, December 20). "It's Not Just 'Ayes' and 'Nays': Obama's Votes in Illinois Echo." New York Times.
  3. Politi-Fact. "Response to Hillary Clinton Comment for January 21st, 2008." Truth-o-Meter.
  4. Dorning, Mike (2008, January 14). "The Swamp: Obama Campaign Defends His Abortion-Rights Record." Chicago Tribune.
  5. Dorn, Michael (2008, February 6). "Obama's Voting Record on Abortion." Washington Post.
  6. Newton-Small, Jay (2008, January 14). "Obama Campaign Defends 'Present' Abortion Votes." Time Magazine.
  7. Dorning, Mike (2007, December 20). "Clinton Camp Criticizes Obama 'Present' Votes." The Swamp. Chicago Tribune.
  8. Hernandez, Raymond & Drew, Christopher (2007, December 20). "Obama's Vote in Illinois Was Often Just 'Present'." New York Times.
  9. Zorn, Eric (2007, December 4). "Change of Subject: Disparagement of Obama Votes Doesn't Hold Up." Chicago Tribune.
  10. Davis, Teddy (2007, July 17). "Obama Abortion Dodges Blessed by Planned Parenthood, ABC News.
  11. Follmer, Max (2008, March 28). "Obama Emphasizes Pro-Choice Voting Record as Clinton Questions 'Present' Votes." Huffington Post.
  12. Bettelheim, Adriel (2008, February 13). "Obama's 'Present' Tension." PolitiFact.
  13. Koffler, Daniel (2008, May 28). "Hillary Clinton and the Popular Vote: Not Wrong, but Meaningless." Huffington Post.
  14. Barone, Michael (2008, March 28). "Projection: Clinton Wins Popular Vote, Obama Wins Delegate Vote." U.S. News.
  15. Romano, Andrew (2008, August 2). "Clinton's Popular Vote Claim? Close--But Not Quite*." Newsweek.
  16. RealClearPolitics. "2008 Democratic Popular Vote."
  17. Associated Press. "Clinton Ends Historic Bid, Endorses Obama."
  18. CNN. "Election Center 2008.
  19. CNN. "How He Really Voted on Abortion: Obama's Record Under Attack." The Situation Room. Uploaded to YouTube by Jill Stanek.
  20. CNN. "Transcripts: June 30, 2008." The Situation Room.
  21. National Right to Life Committee. "Obama Cover-up Revealed on Born-Alive Abortion Survivor's Bill." NRL News, Vol. 35, Issue 7-8, pg. 5.
  22. Brody, David (2008, August 16). "McCain/Obama Forum." CNN. Uploaded to YouTube by Jill Stanek.
  23. David Brody (August 16, 2008). "Obama Gets Heated on Born Alive Infant Protection Act." CBN News. The Brody File.
  24. Johnson, Douglas (2008, August 18). "Obama Cover-up on Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Continues to Unravel After Sen. Obama Says NRLC is 'Lying'." National Right to Life Committee.
  25. Berman, Russell (2008, August 18). "Obama Facing Attacks From All Sides Over Abortion Record." New York Sun.
  26. Dobbs, Michael (2008, April 2). "FactChecker: McCain's '100-Year War'." Washington Post.
  27. Zeleny, Jeff (2008, April 18). "Obama Criticizes McCain on Economic Stance." New York Times.