An opportunity for Romney

President Bush, center, with the team behind the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. (Hadley Arkes second from left.)

The following July 31 post on The Catholic Thing was written by Hadley Arkes, professor of jurisprudence at Amherst College.

In a season of anniversaries, another is coming up soon: Ten years ago, on August 4, there was a gathering in Pittsburgh to see President George W. Bush sign into law the Born-Alive Infants’ Protection Act.

That bill had been tagged “the most modest first step” of all on abortion, for it sought to protect a child who survived an abortion. Present with Mr. Bush was Sen. Rick Santorum, who had guided that bill through the Senate, and Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio, who had managed the bill in the House.

I was invited to the signing because this bill had been a signature project of mine ever since I had drafted an argument for it for the debating kit of first George Bush. But present also was the bishop of Pittsburgh, the Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl; Gianna Jessen, an engaging young woman who had survived a saline abortion; Dr. Watson Bowes, our expert witness on maternal care; and Jill Stanek, the brave nurse who had blown the whistle on the so-called “live-birth abortions” performed at the Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois: a baby was delivered, and then simply put in the refuse room of hospital and left to die.

We had thought (mistakenly) that there were only a handful of these cases. The bill was mainly a “teaching bill,” designed to plant premises in the law – namely, that even the child marked for abortion has a claim to the protection of the law. We never concealed our intention to keep pressing the question, to ask just what was different about that same child five minutes, five days, five months earlier.

Give us that premise – that this child is a person who comes within the protection of the law – and we could unravel the whole “pro-choice” position. But of course the other side saw that point at once, and on the day the hearings opened in the House, some of our friends were actually astonished when the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) actually came out in opposition to this bill that would protect a child born alive.

But what that marked was the fact that the opposition understood this modest measure even better than some of our own allies, because they saw the principle that lay at the heart of the thing.

We thought, as I said, that we were dealing with a handful of cases. But as Jill Stanek did interviews on the radio, nurses began calling in from different parts of the country to report that these “procedures” had been going in their hospitals for a long while. Jill Stanek thought in fact that this mode of abortion could become the favored mode, for it was also the safest: no instruments were introduced into the body of the mother. No danger of infection from parts of the child left behind.

As we were gathered for the signing of the bill, President Bush remarked that it was a “first step in the changing of the culture.” If so, it was hard to resist the thought he had precious little to do with it.

I thought that this would have been the easiest bill for him to talk about: He could have gone into places like Connecticut and New Jersey, where the Republicans were fiercely pro-abortion and say, “surely we can agree on this simplest of all steps.” But Mr. Bush never even endorsed the bill.

For the sake of averting the resistance, first of President Clinton and later of a Democratic Senate, the managers of the bill removed the penalties for failing to provide care to a newborn who had survived an abortion. As the line went, the bill was mainly for “teaching.”

Nevertheless, we had now a statute. And for that reason alone, any clinic or hospital that houses a “live-birth abortion” could lose its tax exemption, because this procedure is clearly “not in accord with public policy.”

More than that, the same hospital or clinic could lose federal funds, and virtually all hospitals depend in some way on federal funds. Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act a hospital is obliged to provide emergency care to any person arriving at the hospital in need of care.

It took the art and persistence of two of my former students, Eric Treene (at the Department of Justice) and Paula Stannard, deputy counsel at Health and Human Services (HHS) to persuade people at HHS that any child surviving an abortion in a hospital was indeed now a “person” (or “patient”) under the care of that hospital.

The anniversary coming up is a melancholy marker. For this simplest of all Acts may be the most potent lever that could be used now by the federal government to push hospitals and clinics out of the business of abortion, and yet the Bush Administration made only a half-hearted attempt to enforce it.

Adding the penalties to the Act could provide, for Mitt Romney, the tool that George Bush left unused: a bill that is disarming in its moderation, even while it puts the issue of abortion before the public in a stark way.

And at the same time it brings home news that people may still find jolting: that the only national Democrat who opposed bills to protect children who survived abortions is the man who now sits in the White House.


For the original story, click here.

Gianna Jessen, the abortion survivor mentioned above, was born alive after a saline abortion in 1977 in Avalon Hospital in the Inglewood area of Los Angeles at the hands of Edward Allred, who did late abortions at this hospital he owned. Allred was the owner of Family Planning Associates, the large abortion chain.

Click here for movie clip with Gianna Jessen for October Baby movie (2012) based on Jessen’s story.



  1. George W. Bush was a fine pro-life President. The author leaves unmentioned Barack Hussein Obama who blocked an Illinois bill to prevent aborted babies from being left to die in hospital closets. In my opinion Bush good, Obama bad.

    • Gratias:

      Given that “Bush good, Obama bad” sounds like a parody of “four legs good, two legs bad” from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, I don’t know what to make of your comment, other than you have a very asymmetric perspective of politics. Bush, as president, fails to lead in some obvious areas where he could have behaved presidentially, yet you say he’s a “fine pro-life President.” Obama, as a State Senator, one voice among many, votes not to prohibit partial-birth abortion because of technical issues with the bill, and you say he “blocked” it, as though he had specific veto power. Both men could have exercised more leadership, both decided not to.

      Given that Bush, for political reasons, didn’t consistently do all possible to protect life, given that even when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and Presidency they managed not to adopt legislation nor even discuss a constitutional amendment to defend young life, given that Obama and the Democrats haven’t been able to deliver most of the fine promises they made either, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say the lesson is “Life good, politics bad”?

      • obama voted present on every bill as far as I know, Francis. He had the worst voting record of any senator. I do know that a nurse wrote an article on the hospital she worked for in Chicago that had a room for babies to be left alone to die of starvation and neglect because they failed to die in an abortion. She said this was being done from decisions made when obama was in the state legislature. It’s been several years since I read it…actually, she wrote it back in 2008 because she wanted to let people know what kind of man they were thinking of electing. Needless to say, that sort of information, and that of his speech in 1996 about his support of same sex marriage etc. were all conveniently suppressed from the so-called mainstream press. I like any reference using George Orwell though. Thanks! He was such a prophet! He also was very funny. Did you read ‘Down and Out in Paris? I think that was the title.

  2. Ironic, that Aug 4 is also the BIRTH-day of President Obama who famously said that deciding when life begins is above his pay grade.

    • August 4 is the beautiful FEAST Day of St. John Vianney, Patron of Parish Priests! I for one would rather focus on something of a much higher (and loftier) calling!

  3. Larry from RI says:

    Thank you Hadley Arkes,Jil Stanic,Rick Santorum,et al. All it takes for good to triumph is courageous good men and women to stand up and be counted. Thank you–Thank you–Thank you.

  4. We must elect Romney before he can reverse the moral corruption and evil of Obama.
    Romney has written an open, public letter to LifeSiteNews and all he intends to do if elected – much of which does not involve Congress.
    He does not believe in abortion – killing for convenience.

    Do not Vote for pro-abortion politicians.

    • Philippe says:

      So “George Bush was a fine pro-life president” huh? I guess one could say “that depends on which lives”. Just try telling that to the Iraquis who’s country’s Christian and non-Christian lives and culture he and his regime destroyed through lies to the American people and to the world and has so far gotten away with it. Is there really that much difference between his and the actions of his regime that differ that greatly from most of those who were hung at Nurenburg for “War Crimes”? Iraq’s Christian community was founded by the apostles in the wake of Pentecost and had been kept alive through the Muslim conquest in the 600 A.Ds.

      I certainly feel I have a duty as a Catholic to vote against Obana, although I would vote against him anyway. Now that Romney has been commiting our country to yet another war, an unjust war by the way, also based on lies and propaganda, with more and more of the Bushies showing up and appearing to be ready to be brought back to power in major appointments and influence by Romney; (unlike Reagan who brought his own team) just who am I supposed to vote for? Don’t tell me Romney is the lesser evil because he would/might be a pro-lifer – as long as the babies are American and except for those who want to participate in criminal wars as service men and women.

      • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

        As a State Senator in Ill-inois, the Obamanation blocked a Bill that would have protected babies born alive. What you more do you die hard Demoncrats who call yourselves Catholic need?

        God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
        Kenneth M. Fisher

        • You get a prize for best packing of pejoratives, polemic exaggerations and message-bearing mis-spellings into a comment.

          Your place in heaven is assured.

      • Bush is not important any more, and certainly not in the upcoming election. Do not try to change the subject off evil OBAMA and the things we can change.
        Obama is evil, and Catholics may not vote for pro-abortion politicans, since there is nothing proportionate to the murder of almost 1 million innocent babies each year in the USA.
        On internet see: “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion, General Principles” by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict)

  5. It is so difficult to understand how a mother could abort a baby almost ready to be born. If she would just wait a little longer she could give the baby up for adoption. It is also difficult to understand how a baby could be left to die when all instincts should be to hold and nurture the child especially in a place where they care for people. Once a child is conceived the mother should do everything within her ability to ensure his heath and well being. Hospitals should get out of the death business.

  6. woody guidry says:

    I had nurses in my family who told me of “doctors” who just gently set any such unwanted people to the side until they died. It was already a common act a long time (I’m in my late 80’s) before a lot of these office holders were even born, and nobody was doing anything about it. Now, a candidate who wants to gain immediate recognition would have to be very young to expect us believe that he didn’t know that being born has been an immediate “run for your life” situation for a long time.

  7. Maryanne Leonard says:

    I am as pro-life as they get, yet I believe that in America today, no man or woman can be elected to the office of the presidency standing too firmly on the pro-life platform, and no one can be elected to the presidency without downplaying his or her personal pro-life attitudes. Santorum was a fine and moral man but not truly presidential material; however, even if he were, he would not have been elected because too many Americans want the legal right to murder their babies. Our problem is not American politics, however; it is the loss of morality throughout the prevailing American culture. Let us first cleanse our twisted minds, cure our hardened hearts, and save our immortal souls, and we will then be able to elect a president worthy of leading this once great country back to greatness.

  8. Abeca Christian says:

    I just saw Jessen’s story video. I cried, praise God that she survived and that she is now empowered to share this to the world! God have mercy on us all!

    • I’ve seen her on EWTN several times and she has a beautiful singing voice too! She’s an amazing talented woman and such witness for life. How easy it would be to be bitter. The woman who adopted her certainly played a big part in her Christian identity. Wow.

      • Abeca Christian says:

        Yes I agree Dana. She speaks so gentle and eloquent. God bless her. I enjoyed watching her speak on YouTube. I showed my kids the video too. I watched October baby and I enjoyed the movie as well.

  9. Paul Joseph says:

    This is proof positive that the Republican Party has sold out the pro-life movement. The Republicans give us a crumb now and then only because they can’t win without us, but at bottom the Party is not truly pro-life. We should “use” the Party as the Party uses us, but should not be deceived.

  10. joan nortz says:

    I cannot believe such an immoral response to begetting human life by the mother or and the father allowing even such an act to take place.
    Each of us, especially the woman is the only one to live out the role of a life time role as mother, nerturing and sustaing life, at all costs and loving there gift of life, really until she herself dies. If a mother could see her role as the most important gift to society and to her moral conscience Not President Bush or President Obama or the Federal government to allow or disallow right and wrong then all of us who are responding to these comments could really respond to changing a selfish materialistic world.

  11. Before I answer, palsee understand that I am against abortion, I also am a councellor at a pregnancy care center. That said. Most of the time an abortion done in the second trimester is done while the patient is under twilight sleep or general anestesia. You would not remember anything.I have had three abortions in my life, the lives that I stole will always haunt me. I had 2 abortions that were done within 12 weeks of conception and one done at 20 weeks. As I was leaving the abortion clinic after the procedure, I saw a nurse inspecting an aborted fetus (could have been mine). It was an obvious baby. It was red and in several pieces. This happened when I was 18, I am now 38 and it still haunts me and I imagine it always will.I know what it is like to take a life, to give life and keep it and give life and give it away (adoption). Let me tell you that giving life is less painful than living with the acts of abortion for the rest of your life. It is a painful hole that can never be filled and the more you try to fill it, the deeper and darker it becomes.My oldest daughter was supposed to be aborted. She would have been the 4th. I had the laminara stips put in the night before the abortion. I was 23 weeks pregnant. I changed my mind, I went to another doctor, had them removed. I had a healthy baby girl a few months later. She will be turning 18 on August 29th. Today she and I are the best of friends, I cannot imagine my life without her. I have told her everything about her life inside my belly. She has learned through me that she never wants the same things to happen to her and she forgives her mother for almost ending her life.You need to know what you are going to loose with an abortion esp. this far advanced.

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