Acton Institute Powerblog

Obama’s Dream not for All God’s Children

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August 28 at Denver’s Mile High Stadium, the son of a black African delivered a rousing acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination. It occurred 45 years to the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and told America “I have a dream.”

Even Americans unconvinced that the Democratic nominee is the right choice for America should take heart from the fact that half a century after King struggled against vicious, institutionalized racism, the United States has become a place that can fairly consider an African-American for the highest political office in the land.

But if as King urged, we are careful to judge a person not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character, the convergence stretching across 45 years begs a question: Has Barack Obama’s political career embodied Martin Luther King’s dream of justice for all?

King dreamed of a day when his nation would “live out the true meaning” of a creed inscribed in the Declaration of Independence: “all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The reality is, Barack Obama supports policies that aggressively, even violently undermine that dream.

One might assume I’m referring to the rights of the unborn, and certainly Obama has voted consistently to deny unborn babies the right to life. Obama even blocked modest attempts to end the gruesome practice of partial birth abortion. After the cervix is dilated in this procedure, the baby–who often is old enough to survive outside the womb–is partially delivered, feet first. The abortionist then sticks a needle into the back of the child’s head and suctions out her brains. As an Illinois state senator, Obama twice refused to support a bill banning the practice.

While this is worth noting, I had in view a more startling instance of Senator Obama deviating from Dr. King’s vision of justice for all. Recently California pastor Rick Warren interviewed Obama as part of the Saddleback Forum and, at one point, asked the candidate, “At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?” The senator said that answering the question was “above my pay grade.”

Most of the subsequent media analysis assumed that his answer applied only to unborn babies. But the senator’s voting record tells a different story.

In 2001 and 2002, as an Illinois state senator, Obama repeatedly declined to vote for the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, a bill to protect newborns who survive late-term abortions. Senator Obama has asserted that problems in the wording of the bills drove his decisions not to support this and the partial-birth abortion bills. But in 2003 the Born Alive Infant Protection Act was sent to a committee Obama chaired, giving him the chance to modify anything about the bill he disliked. He never called the bill up for a vote.

Obama has presented himself as a pro-choice moderate. In fact, Obama is far to the left of his own party on the born-alive issue. A similar bill in the U.S. Congress was opposed by only 15 members of the House and was passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate. The bill was even supported by NARAL Pro-Choice America. This is not surprising: the bill outlaws infanticide. What is surprising is that Senator Obama could not find a way to support the bill.

In his “I Have a Dream” speech, King said, “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” But Obama has refused to extend justice, even the most basic human right, to a segment of the youngest children among us.

Some people have tried to minimize the difference between King and today’s abortion-on-demand lobby by pointing to an award King accepted from Planned Parenthood in 1966. But in a Feb. 25 written release, King’s niece, Dr. Alveda Scott King, noted that King accepted the award when “abortion was illegal in every state and before Planned Parenthood started publicly advocating for it.” In Planned Parenthood’s citation for the award, “not only is no mention of abortion made, it states that ‘human life and progress are indeed indivisible.'”

King’s niece added, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘The Negro cannot win if he is willing to sacrifice the future of his children for personal comfort and safety,’ and, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ There is no way my uncle would condone the violence of abortion, violence that Planned Parenthood has always tried to mask, which brings painful deaths to babies and can result in torn wombs, serious infections, and emotional devastation for their mothers.”

The Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution that followed, called for a limited national government that protected the inalienable rights of its citizens. At least as regards health care, Senator Obama is advocating something quite different: an ever expanding nanny state intimately involved in our medical choices, and yet one unwilling to protect a newborn child’s inalienable right to life.

In his interview with Warren, Obama emphasized that as a nation we “still don’t spend enough time thinking about the least of these.” But who counts as “the least of these”? A newborn who has survived an attempt on her life strikes me as a pretty good candidate.

Jonathan Witt


  • Scott

    Superbly done, Dr. Witt.

  • Clare Wilson Parr

    Thank you, Dr. Witt. It’s wonderful to find a voice of reason amidst the sound and fury signifying nothing but hatred, bigotry, etc., that dominates the political discussion in this country.

    Clare Wilson Parr

  • maria

    Why incite MLK now,? you people didn’t believe in him when he was alive!!

  • J. C. Johnson

    I beg to differ with you. Dr. King gave us (in my opinion) some of the greatist speeches ever uttered in this nation. Also some of his published letters fit that same level. His non-violent protests kept his whole movement from decending into a no win race war. He kept his troops on a short well diciplined leash. I was in the Univ. of Tenn. when much of his work was going on. I passed through Memphis just hours after he was shot. I saw the columns of smoke rising as the city was set on fire. Blazes were everywhere. We all lost that day a great man. Both whits and blacks lost!

  • Greg Stout

    The only problem with your article on Obama’s Dream is that conservatives know it, and liberals and moderates will not even read it. i just wish people would be willing to read the whole truth, but in this political campaign there will be no looking beyond the surface glitter.

  • I’m sadden to see that the Acton has sunk to such depth. I suppose Laura Ingram dream is for all children…I’m disappointed in the Acton!:-(


  • I’m sorry Cliff. I don’t understand. To what level has acton sunk with this post?

  • Faith Sorensen

    It saddens me to no end that you misrepresent this issue so. That kind of late-term abortion is used only in wanted pregnancies that have gone terribly, terribly wrong, in which there are cases of terrible birth defects or in which the mother’s life is in serious danger and having a c-section or carrying to term would cause sepsis or death to the mother. This is never a choice that any woman and her family in this situation makes lightly, and you are grossly misrepresenting these already tragic and difficult cases. I had to terminate a pregnancy when my child, the child we so desperately wanted, was hydrocephalic. It broke our hearts that God hadn’t meant him to survive to term, but we made the medical decision to terminate because we had no other choice given that I couldn’t have that baby. What is more of what you describe as “an ever expanding nanny state intimately involved in our medical choices” than preventing couples from making this decision when the tragic dilemma of a non-viable fetus presents itself to them? For shame.

  • Faith:

    You are misinformed about the circumstances that surround many of these abortions:

  • ad

    insightful or inciteful? careful what ideas you attribute to Christ. Esp when mixing religion and politics.

  • Howard

    Obama supporters are foolish to think that he will never betray them.
    Obama was a close friend of Pastor Wright for TWENTY YEARS.
    Obama threw Wright under the bus for personal ambition.
    McCain would not betray his country even after 5 years of torture.
    You can put lipstick on a traitor, but he’s still a traitor.

  • Scott

    I never heard Obama claim to be the second coming of MLK so I don’t get the basic premise. I guess it gives you a soap box from which to condemm another human. Love one another… (John 13, 34-35) We may or may not agree on issues like abortion and gun control but if made illegal, abortions would likely still happen, just as, if tightly controlled, guns would still be bought, sold and used to commit crimes.

  • marc

    Just because abortions would likely continue to occur if made illegal is no reason to stop trying to ban the procedure. Abortion is just as much a violation of the human person as slavery; moreso in fact, because at least slaves have a chance to be free. Aborted babies are, well, dead. No chance to right the wrong there.

    By your logic, we might as well stop legislating against any crime, because it’s going to happen anyway.

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