The XX Factor

Why Did Mike Huckabee Imply That Obama Supports Infanticide?

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee speaks at the Republican National Convention.

Photograph by Mladen Antonov/AFP/GettyImages.

In an RNC night full of outrageous lies, one jumped out as the sort of thing that you don’t even need an official fact-checker to know is thorough nonsense: Mike Huckabee casually tossing off the claim that President Obama supports infanticide. 

Let me clear the air about whether guys like me would only support an evangelical. Of the four people on the two tickets, the only self-professed evangelical is Barack Obama, and he supports changing the definition of marriage, believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb or even beyond the womb, and tells people of faith that they must bow their knees to the god of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls health care.

Setting aside the usual annoyance at the way anti-choicers reduce women with arms, legs, and brains to “the womb,” this is just a risible and obvious lie. But it’s not one that Huckabee made up out of nowhere. Like Todd Akin and “legitimate rape,” this anti-choice myth that Obama hates babies so much he wants to smother them at birth has a long pedigree within the woolly world of anti-abortion activism.

It all goes back to a woman named Jill Stanek, an anti-choice fanatic who uses her popular blog to do things like help anti-choice activists figure out which doctors they want to stalk and promulgate every lurid story that percolates within the anti-choice community, including claims that Chinese people eat fetuses. Stanek rose to prominence after claiming that the Illinois hospital she worked at as a nurse was performing botched abortions, accidentally delivering babies alive and then tossing them in a utility closet to die. (A state investigation demonstrated that her claims could not be substantiated.) Stanek brought this story to the Illinois legislature in support of a bill called the “Born Alive Act,” even though the behavior Stanek claimed to have seen would have, if it had actually happened, already been illegal under Illinois law. What was clear to Obama when he opposed this bill in his time as a state legislator, was that it had nothing to do with actual babies that had been born alive. As explains:

What Obama voted against was legislation that would have extended the law’s protection to any aborted fetus that shows any sign of life, even if doctors are certain that it cannot survive.

All of which is a way of saying that the legislation was intended to force doctors to go through a charade of trying to resuscitate fetuses they extract during late term abortions. This was prior to the federal ban on the D&X (dilation and extraction, or, as it is known now, partial-birth abortion), which allowed doctors to pull fetuses they were aborting out in one piece, often for women terminating non-viable pregnancies but still wanted an intact corpse to mourn and bury. Under this law, these women—already suffering from losing a wanted pregnancy because of fetal defects or threats to their own lives—would have to not only go through the abortion, but also watch the doctors go through the motions of resuscitating a fetus that has no chance of life. The purpose of all this, beyond simple sadism, was to chip away at the state’s protections for women who needed late term abortions. As a reminder, only 1.5 percent of abortions occur after 21 weeks. Abortions after 24 weeks, which are the abortions really being spoken about here, are already strictly restricted by law, though the Supreme Court requires that exceptions be made for the health of the mother. 

Obama was instrumental in getting the Born Alive Act killed, but that doesn’t mean that he—a father of two—has some vendetta against born babies and wants them murdered. Or that he believes human life is “expendable.” Like all other pro-choicers, Obama supports abortion rights because he values human life. He simply includes women in the category of humans who have lives worth valuing.