Townhall: Born Alive and the Politics of Contrast

For me — a transplanted, self-admitted southern politico — tomorrow is going to be a banner day. Sarah Palin is speaking in my hometown, Greenville, North Carolina (home of the Fighting ECU Pirates), and Senators McCain and Obama will cap off the day with what I predict will be the pivotal debate of the election. If the past week is prelude, they both will be on the offensive. Negative campaigning will reign supreme. It’s about daggone time. The politics of contrast will make this day a banner day for the direction of this nation – especially when it comes to the one issue the Obama-Biden ticket avoids most assiduously.

Once and for all, Barack Obama needs to explain his position on the issue he has successfully ducked until now. The Born Alive Infant Protection Act reveals a breathtaking callousness in him that he, understandably, does not want to discuss. Having fought tooth and nail for legislation to protect “accidental” abortion survivors, I can’t sit by and watch Biden-Obama’s avoidance and obfuscation one day more. More importantly, Americans shouldn’t stand for it.

Obama has done a masterful job in keeping the truth of his position from voters. Back when he served in the Illinois state legislature as head of the Health subcommittee, Obama helped defeat the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. He successfully ducked the issue when it followed him to the U.S. Senate. He even launched a “pro-life” website to help him deflect the issue even more. The man is far from anything resembling pro-life. Forget that label though, which may not be helpful. The bottom line is this: he would not protect the rights of any child from his or her beginning until a short time after his or her birth.

The man says the very first thing he would do as president is sign the “Freedom of Choice Act” – legislation ensuring that abortion up until the point of birth is legal forever. And taxpayer-funded to boot. This cuts against the protective instinct of the vast majority of women. No wonder he keeps his position on this out of sight.

We should all hope the issue comes up tomorrow night. I know this debate is scheduled to be all about our pocketbooks, but for heaven’s sake, can we take a few moments to drill down to the truth on this fundamental issue of which Obama is clearly so afraid? When he debated in the Illinois Senate, he called protecting children born alive a “burden” upon their mothers.

And then, there’s Trig Palin. The last month has revealed the ugly underbelly of the abortion rights movement. The internet is afire with those deeply concerned about Trig’s public witness. These kids with Down Syndrome are a burden and threat to the public good, they say. This Trig is dangerous –Sarah Palin is tricking parents into thinking they can adequately take good care of bright lights like Trig. “What in the world was she thinking?”, they ask incredulously.

And then for more contrast, there’s the McCain Family. The surprise child in their own family is no burden. They didn’t know that the nuns in Mother Teresa’s orphanage would hand over two vulnerable newborns. They responded with compassion toward these innocent children, finding a home for one and bringing another into their own. Some would say the children they encountered in that orphanage are burdens. But the McCains don’t.

Are we so tired and afraid of the ‘A’ word as a nation that we cannot bare to look at the contrast between these two tickets and draw out the dramatic difference?

McCain should go on the attack to address the heartlessness of Obama’s position on protecting the most vulnerable. It is not only a contrast between the McCain and Palin families’ approach to arguably the most vulnerable human beings on earth. It reveals a contrast of character. Nothing is wrong with negative per se. Much as I love manners, one thing mature adults learn is that we avoid them at our own peril.

We as Americans should embrace honest negative campaigning. Not viciousness and mud – – but the determination and instinct to root out the contrasts between candidates. Tomorrow should and can be a turning point in identifying the stark differences between McCain and Obama.

I love and miss my hometown. It did not raise me to be negative. But I did learn a good tactic Sarah Palin and John McCain can leverage. It’s the ‘bless his heart. . .’ preamble that can cover you for whatever follows. It conveys that we are all in this together — but we’ve got a real problem with you on this one. Babies born alive deserve protection, Senator Obama. And that is the full truth.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is President of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide network of Americans, over 148,000 in all 50 states, dedicated to mobilizing, advancing and representing pro-life women in politics.

This article first appeared at on October 6, 2008

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