Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kmiec on Obama on Infants Born Alive Act

Doug Kmiec has published a new book, Can a Catholic Support Him?, addressing his widely discussed endorsement of Barack Obama.  Steve Waldman has posted, with Doug's permission, the section of the book addressing Obama's opposition to the Infants Born Alive Protection Act.  Here's an excerpt:

Let me say right at top, that if I were in the Illinois legislature I would have given this law my vote. That said, this legislation, in my opinion and, I believe, in Senator Obama's as well, was not aimed at saving lives so much as shaming them. Now, the history of this measure, which is quite convoluted, is being used to suggest that Senator Obama is a proponent of infanticide. This is an outrageous smear as the detailed accounting of this episode by a Chicago Tribune reporter reveals if anyone cares to look before indulging the accusation. As a man who views his own daughters as the miraculous gift of the Creator that they are, the Senator is justifiably angered by what would very likely be libelous blogs were he not a public figure.

So what does the "Born Alive" Act do? Largely, it redefines what it means to be "born alive." From the time of ancient common law, "born alive" has meant live birth at or near the end of a full term pregnancy with a reasonable prospect of survival. If a woman sadly miscarries earlier and expels a non-viable, but temporarily alive, but unborn child with a transient heartbeat, there isn't a county recorder in the country who would record a live birth. The miscarriage is sad enough; we don't worsen it with the grief of death before life has meaningfully taken hold. But that's what the "Born Alive" Act does. For the most part, it redefines live birth to include non-viable unborn who lack any meaningful chance of survival. In essence, the act imposes on the birth process the over-extension of life support to a dying patient without any reasoned chance of survival. Medical ethics does not require so called "heroic" care at either end of life, and neither does Catholic teaching.

You can read the whole section here.


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