Copyrighted material


by Bill Berkowitz

Wealthy Anti-Abortion Zealot Funding Anti-Obama Ads

(IPS) -- Although the issue of abortion has not come up in either of the U.S. presidential or vice presidential debates, it is very much in play on the campaign trail, especially in a number of battleground states.

Often, while the term itself isn't used, it is clearly the subtext when the question of appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court is discussed or the phrase "judicial activism" -- meaning politicized legal decisions -- is used.

South Dakota, Colorado and California all have abortion-related initiatives on their November ballots, initiatives that are aimed at ending or limiting abortion rights.

Not being quizzed on reproductive rights during the debates failed to prevent Alaska Governor Sarah Palin from raising the issue herself. At a recent rally and during a radio interview, Palin accused Obama of supporting infanticide.

"As a state senator, Barack Obama wouldn't even stand up for the rights of infants born alive during an abortion," Palin said during a Johnstown Pennsylvania., rally. "These infants, often babies with special needs, are simply left to die."

"Without any clear context," Time magazine reported, "Palin's statements seemed to suggest that Obama supported a form of infanticide."

Palin, who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape and incest, said that "A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for activist courts that will continue to smother the open and democratic debate we need on this issue, at both the state and federal level. A vote for Barack Obama would give the ultimate power over the issue of life to a politician who has never once done anything to protect the unborn."

During an appearance on the ultra-conservative Laura Ingraham Show, Palin said Obama had voted against providing medical care to babies who were alive after attempted abortions. "It's very appalling," Palin said. "If more Americans could understand how absolutely extreme that position is, there would be a heck of a lot more outrage than we have already seen."

Emily Douglas, an editor for RH Reality Check, a daily online publication covering global reproductive and sexual health news and information, told IPS by e-mail that, "Recently, the McCain-Palin campaign has tamped down on attacks on Obama's alleged connection to [former] radical Bill Ayers -- only to ramp up attacks that Obama's position on abortion is 'radical.'"

"Clearly, McCain and Palin are still trying to portray Obama as an extremist, when in fact his pro-prevention policies on abortion have attracted numerous self-described 'pro-life' voters, and in an election in which voters rank the candidate's ability to deal with the economy far above his position on abortion," she noted.

In an FRC Action Alert issued on Monday, Perkins, who heads the Washington-based conservative Christian lobby group, urged supporters to petition CBS's Bob Schieffer, the moderator of the third presidential debate, to ask the candidates if they "agree or disagree with the Supreme Court's decision allowing the government to ban abortions that kill a partially born baby?" and if they've "ever supported or opposed any law designed to protect the lives of babies that have survived an attempted abortion?"

Perkins did not suggest that the candidates be asked whether they favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in most cases.

Sen. John McCain opposes abortion rights and has voted for abortion restrictions permissible under Roe v. Wade. He has, since early on in the campaign, said that he would seek to overturn that guarantee of abortion rights.

Sen. Obama has consistently supported abortion rights. Both candidates are opposed to a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

A host of anti-abortion organizations have unleashed a series of radio and television ads in swing states attacking Obama on the issue., an anti-abortion non-profit headed by Jill Stanek, has rolled out television advertisements explicitly accusing Obama of "supporting infanticide."

The BornAliveTruth ad is narrated by Gianna Jesson, who is identified as an "abortion survivor." In the ad, Jesson states that "if Barack Obama had his way, I wouldn't be here." The ad focuses on Obama's opposition to the "Born Alive Infant Protection Act."

Douglas said that the ad which "suggests that Obama failed to support the highest standard of care for newborns, is a mistruth. Existing law in Illinois already protected infants, and the 'Born Alive' bills were bundled with other pieces of legislation that would have interfered with the state abortion law and increased physician liability."

Earlier this month, Douglas reported that the National Right to Life Committee was preparing a radio ad charging that because he voted against the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act, Obama is "responsible for killing a bill to provide care and protection for babies who are born alive after abortions' and that 'he later misrepresented the bill's content."

In South Dakota, anti-abortion activists are going over ground that was plowed two years ago when voters easily defeated an initiative aimed at outlawing all abortions. However, this time around abortion opponents appeared to soften the language in the initiative, "include[ing] language purporting to make exceptions for incest, rape or the life and health of the mother," a New York Times editorial pointed out.

"But no one should be fooled," the paper said. "The exceptions were drafted to make it nearly impossible to get an abortion, even during the first trimester of pregnancy. The measure is clearly unconstitutional under existing Supreme Court rulings, and that's just the point. The underlying agenda is to provide a vehicle for challenging Roe v. Wade..."

Amendment 48 in Colorado is a controversial ballot measure that would make the term "person" "include any human being from the moment of fertilization," with all the constitutional rights that confers.

The initiative would in "effect bestow on fertilized eggs, prior to implantation in the womb and pregnancy, the same legal rights and protections that apply to people once they are born," the New York Times editorial noted.

Interestingly, the Colorado measure is receiving little support from longtime abortion opponents, including the Catholic Church, and Gov. Bill Ritter, a self-described "pro-life" Democrat.

In California, the battle over abortion rights is centerd on Proposition 4, an initiative that would force teenage girls to notify their parents if they were pregnant and wanted an abortion. This is the third time that a parental notification initiative has appeared on the state's ballot, having twice been defeated.

"Far from protecting vulnerable teens, Proposition 4 would make it difficult for young women caught in abusive situations to obtain an abortion without notifying their parents, even in cases where the father or stepfather is responsible for the pregnancy," the New York Times editorial pointed out. Recent polling has the anti-abortion side slightly ahead.

"The ballot initiatives in Colorado and South Dakota that would act as near-total abortion bans reveal the extremism of the anti-choice movement," Douglas pointed out. "The Colorado ballot initiative is opposed even by its pro-life governor, while South Dakota's ban would outlaw abortion with exceptions only for rape, incest, and the woman's health -- after an attempt in 2006 to outlaw abortion with no exceptions."

"Voters can see that it's the anti-choice movement, not Barack Obama, who is extreme on abortion," she added.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor   October 16, 2008   (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.