Illinois Legislature Debates Unborn Child Rights

July 7, 2008 - 7:03 PM

Chicago ( - Pro-abortion crusaders are planning a massive lobbying campaign to defeat legislation, passed by the Illinois Senate, to provide legal and medical protection to babies who survive abortion attempts by doctors.

The state House is preparing to take up the measure, which was sponsored by state Sen. Patrick O'Malley (R-Palos Park) and passed in the Senate just over a week ago, and a legislative battle is shaping up in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

"There are privacy rights issues here, under the Illinois Constitution, and threats to the federal right to an abortion as well," said Mary Dixon, an attorney and legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Springfield, the state capital.

"We're working to kill this in the House, preferably in committee, where they have a greater understanding of the issues involved," said Dixon.

But pro-life activists aren't so sure that the ACLU and its political comrades will prevail. "As a living human being, a fetus is protected under the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights," said Curt Mercandate, a pro-life activist in Chicago.

"The left-wing threats to challenge the constitutionality of this bill are ironic. Their basis for such threats leads me to question the constitutionality of abortions. This bill would not only force the public to finally recognize that a fetus is a living being, it would, in fact, provide fuel to that debate and look to classify abortions as, in fact, criminal acts."

Other conservatives reckon that the Constitution's due process guarantees are favorable to the unborn and, thus, to the legislation. Moreover, many say compassion is reasonable for the babies under the circumstances.

"American law is schizophrenic regarding unborn children's rights. While unborn babies may be represented in court for matters of inheritance, they can at the same time be put to death by abortion, without due process, up to the moment of delivery," said C. Preston Noell, III, president of Tradition, Family and Property, Inc., a conservative activist group.

"Babies that survive abortion should be given all reasonable medical care. Allowing them to die without any attempt to sustain their lives is just plain barbaric," said Noell.

O'Malley's legislation provides that a doctor other than the one who performed the abortion, would be compelled to assess whether a living fetus could survive.

The baby would be considered "born alive" if he or she has a beating heart or moves voluntarily, regardless of its age.

The child would be fully recognized as a human person and provided reasonable medical care under O'Malley's proposal. Physicians or clinics failing to provide that care could face lawsuits by county public guardians.

But the ACLU and other organizations plan to argue that the bill, in addition to being unconstitutional, is also "expensive and futile," said Dixon. "It also second guesses physicians," she added.

The legislation comes as the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to vote soon on the first pro-life measure of the 107th Congress, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (H.R. 503).

That bill would recognize unborn children as victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of a federal crime. The state legislation also emerges at a time when the Illinois House is debating parental notification for teenagers seeking abortions.

"A child who survives birth is a U.S. citizen," said O'Malley. "We need to do everything we can in the state of Illinois to make sure we secure and protect its rights."