NRO: An Open-Letter to Senator Obama

Sherif Girgis is a senior philosophy major at Princeton University who recently wrote the following open-letter to Senator Barack Obama. Girgis gets right to the heart of the matter on the life issue, and the implicit critique of Obama is devastating. The article is posted at National Review Online.


Dear Senator Obama:

As an immigrant from Kenya, your father found new hope in America’s noble principles and vast opportunities. The same promise brought my parents here from Egypt when I was still too young to thank them. Now you have inspired my generation with your vision of a country united around the same ideals of liberty and justice, “filled with hope and possibility for all Americans.”

But do you mean it?

As a legislator, you have opposed every effort to protect unborn human life. Shockingly, you even opposed a bill to protect the lives of babies who, having survived an attempted abortion, are born alive. Despite your party’s broad support for legal abortion and its public funding, most Democrats (including Senator Clinton) did not oppose the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. You, however, opposed it. Your vision of America seems to eliminate “hope and possibility” for a whole class of Americans: the youngest and most vulnerable. You would deny them the most basic protection of justice, the most elementary equality of opportunity: the right to be born.

As a prerequisite for any other right, the right to life is the great civil-rights issue of our time. It is what slavery and segregation were to generations past. Our response to this issue is the measure of our fidelity to a defining American principle: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life.”

You have asked me to vote for you. In turn, may I ask you three simple questions? They are straightforward questions of fact about abortion. They are at the heart of the debate. In fairness, I believe that you owe the people you would lead a good-faith answer to each:

1. The heart whose beating is stilled in every abortion — is it a human heart?

2. The tiny limbs torn by the abortionist’s scalpel — are they human limbs?

3. The blood that flows from the fetus’s veins — is it human blood?

If the stopped heart is a human heart, if the torn limbs are human limbs, if the spilled blood is human blood, can there be any denying that what is killed in an abortion is a human being? In your vision for America, the license to kill that human being is a right. You have worked to protect that “right” at every turn. But can there be a right to deny some human beings life or the equal protection of the law?

Of course, some do deny that every human being has a right to life. They say that size or degree of development or dependence can make a difference. But the same was once said of color. Some say that abortion is a “necessary evil.” But the same was once said of slavery. Some say that prohibiting abortion would only harm women by driving it underground. But to assume so is truly to play the politics of fear. A compassionate society would never accept these false alternatives. A compassionate society would protect both mother and child, coming to the aid of women in need rather than calling violence against their children the answer to their problems.

Can we become a society that does not sacrifice some people to help others? Or is that hope too audacious? You have said that abortion is necessary to protect women’s equality. But surely we can do better. Surely we can build an America where the equality of some is not purchased with the blood of others. Or would that mean too much change from politics as usual?

Can we provide every member of the human family equal protection under the law? Your record as a legislator gives a resounding answer: No, we can’t. That is the answer the Confederacy gave the Union, the answer segregationists gave young children, the answer a complacent bus driver once gave a defiant Rosa Parks. But a different answer brought your father from Kenya so many years ago; a different answer brought my family from Egypt some years later. Now is your chance, Senator Obama, to make good on the spontaneous slogan of your campaign, to adopt the more American and more humane answer to the question of whether we can secure liberty and justice for all: Yes, we can.


  • Brett

    Oh my goodness this is getting ridiculous. You’re not going to persuade me to vote different. I wouldn’t listen to a guy who promotes ‘just-war’ agenda any more than I would a guy who is pro-choice. At least one says it’s a choice, while the other claims it’s biblical and necessary.

  • Hoey

    Again (and I am personally anti-abortion, so please don’t think I am espousing a pro-choice platform) this states that Barack Obama opposed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. He didn’t opposed it. He voted “present” and then “no” on a different bill in a different context with different wording that came before the Illinois Senate. He didn’t get elected to the Senate until 3 years after the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (HR 2175) was passed. Obama has actually said he would have voted for HR 2175.

  • Trent G.

    Brett, believe it or not, I don’t think Denny is posting all of this just for your sake. I think he is trying to address reasonable people.

  • Brett

    Yeah Kevin, I mean, I had no idea that Denny might actually be talking to other people. How naive am I? You really got me there (sarcasm)

  • Paul


    you’re not catching it. Trent got in a great shot at you, and it flew right over you.

    He’s accusing you of not being reasonable.

  • Jesica

    May I ask a question, in all humility, of those who say they are against war?

    I’m just trying to understand your perspective, and how you reason through it from Scripture.

    What do you do with all of the times in the Old Testament that God called His people to battle?

    Is there ever a time, from your understanding, that war is called for?

    Thank you for your honest answer….I’d truly like to know.

    Having a similar discussion about the death penalty really changed my belief about it.

    In Him,

  • Paul


    re: discussion about war/just war, etc, etc, etc…

    Difference between Iraq and God sending Israelites into Canaan: God sent the Jews into Canaan. Unless I’m missing something big, God didn’t send Bush into Iraq. I am certain that if God did tell Bush to invade Iraq, He would have also let others know that key piece of information. He didn’t.

    The only two times I can see a justification for war are when we are attacked, or when war is declared upon us. Afghanistan was completely justified. Iraq wasn’t.

  • Trent G.

    Hoey, you might find this article helpful. It was written by a woman who “fought to stop ‘live-birth abortion’ after witnessing one as a registered nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.” She has personal experience with this bill and with Sen. Obama’s involvement in it. Also, it uses Obama’s own words to explain why he didn’t support the bill.


  • Brett

    Trent Trent Trent,

    Still trying to hang on to that little shred of hope that Obama wants unsuccessful aborted babies left to die. This is a complete lie circulating everywhere, and was probably started by some right-wing evangelical because they are scared to death that he actually might win this thing.

    I guess you probably think he’s a Muslim too don’t you?

  • jeff miller

    dDear Denny Burk,
    I have to agree, in overwhelmed recognition, that Sherif’s critique is devastating, not only for Barack’s alleged pro-abortion stance, but also for any American candidate with a pro-abortion stance. On what might be a lesser note, is there any thing to Hoey’s account in post #3?

    Dear Jesica,
    While I appreciate Paul’s having taken the time to respond, I would offer a different approach to your question.
    “Just War” criteria was not adhered to by God in his war instructions to Israel in the Old covenant. Nor is man’s “just war” a fitting policy for those who would be joined to the cause of Jesus in the New covenant. In the Old Covenant with the Nation of Israel, God spoke to Israel in a way that would point the faithful (through symbols) to the ultimate hope of the age to come. God did this by condescending and speaking to man in language of the known about that which was to be known. In many ways God was granting a temporary concession to the ways of this age in order to ultimately demonstrate man’s weakness and God’s patience and perfection (see Jesus’ response when questioned about divorce in the law of Moses for a truncated example of this). So that in the Old Testament wars, pressed by God himself, God accomplishes several things: 1) God pictures the ultimate and effective spiritual war which must be won by Jesus and his saints, (thus Paul’s view that the weapons of OUR warfare are not carnal), 2) God demonstrates His absolute rights over the affairs of men, (after all He will one day bring a final end to the future hope of a multitude in judgment) 3) God demonstrates the inadequacy of our strength in our natural, nationalistic and often knee-jerk efforts to overcome the illegitimacy of this age. So that now Jesus comes with a legitimacy which overcomes Israel’s shortcomings in both ill-treatment of neighbor, which was not sanctioned under the Old covenant and the natural and nationalistic hatred of enemy which was sanctioned under the old covenant. Jesus gospelizes the Kingdom of God, not with a public policy for Rome or the United States, but with a public policy for the saints. I hope this is helpful for a start.
    With the hope and joy of participation,

  • Trent G.

    Here’s the way this works. I put a name at the beginning of a post followed by a comma. That indicates the person I am addressing. In the case of post #14 I wrote “Hoey,”. That means I am addressing Hoey not Brett. If I wanted to address Brett I would’ve written “Brett,”. Hoey = yes. Brett = no. The reason I didn’t address you is because I realized that you would not interact with the article. You wouldn’t engage the sources the article cites. You certainly wouldn’t state what specific content of the article you think is off the mark. You probably didn’t even read the article. Instead, the best you can muster is “right-wing conspiracy” (or maybe the aliens did it?). When someone has to resort to a tired line like that, it shows that they have nothing significant to say. So, in the future, if I want somebody to totally abandon engaging the actual issues and instead close their eyes and ears and run around saying “right wingers, right wingers, aaaaahhhhh” then I will address the comment to Brett.

  • Hoey

    Trent G,

    This will be a long post, so my apologies.

    Thanks for the article. I’m aware of Jill Stanek. I personally find all abortion abhorrent and I hate that western society has to address the issue at all. But my contention is the facts aren’t actually being presented correctly. It would appear to me that an accusation of Obama being a butcher who joyously looks on while babies die on metal tables is a far more juicy morsel than the nuanced reality. That regression to caricature, for me, reduces the credibilty of a pro-life argument – which is a shame.

    I don’t really like writing this way, but I’ll try to respond to each of Ms. Stanek’s 10 points.

    10. In this quote Mr. Obama was discussing the constitutionality of the Illinois bill (SB 1093) given that it’s wording seemed to label all pre-viable fetuses as children. This clashes with the views of almost all pro-choice proponents and is a point at which SB 1093 diverges from HR 2175 (the Senate bill introduced in 2001). It would extend SB 1093 in to the ground established by Roe v Wade – I think (Ha! I’m certainly no expert!).

    9. I’ll admit that I don’t have a wider understanding of this quote’s context, so I can’t comment on it.

    8. To be honest, I don’t know how SB 1093 could have taken away any doctor’s judgement in the situation. But that probably comes down to my poor understanding of the legal effect of the bill.

    7. I don’t understand Ms. Stanek’s difficulty here. Obama was saying there was already provision in Illinois law (and federal law at that point due to HR 2175 being passed) requiring doctors to provide life saving care for a born-alive infant.

    6. This is very vague. There is no mention of the charts Obama was supposedly looking at. There’s also no discussion as to whether he was looking at accurate data.

    5. Obama himself wasn’t satisfied with this answer so he fleshed it out in the quote used in point 4.

    4. I completely agree with Obama on this. But apart from that, he was using the broad example of abortion to discuss faith based arguments in politics. It seems to me that Ms. Stanek has again quoted him out of context.

    3 & 2. Obama has asserted that this bill’s wording would go far beyond it’s stated intention and encroach on Roe v Wade. This, apparently, was not something new for Republican Senator Patrick O’Malley who introduced the bill. If Obama genuinely believed this, then he – as a pro-choice Senator – would be reasonably expected to see it as politics and respond in kind. Especially if he believed the stated intention of the bill was already covered in law.

    1. I disagree with Ms. Stanek’s legal interpretation here. I believe HR 2175’s paragraph clearly ensures no encroachment on pre-existing law. This includes Roe v Wade. I can’t, however, disagree with her assertion that Obama killed a proposal to include the federal language in the Illinois bill. I just don’t know enough to say anything on that.

    Well, thanks for the link Trent. It was an interesting read. I hope I’m not coming across as somebody who is pro-choice. To restate, I’m just worried that people are drawing and burning caricatures as opposed to dealing with the reality.

  • Trent G.

    Again, what do we see here. Does Brett engage the issue? No. Does he interact with any facts? No. Why? That would require a grasp of the issues. That would require some thought. But he does add something to his repertoire, name-calling. Kudos, Brett. So now instead of running around with his eyes and ears closed yelling “right wingers, right wingers, aaaaahhhhh”, now he’s also calling people “poopie-heads”. Brett, your method of interaction may work on the playground, but not in a conversation with adults.

  • Trent G.

    I appreciate someone who is willing to actually engage the issue. It’s refreshing. Thanks.
    I’m not implying that Obama is ” a butcher who joyously looks on while babies die on metal tables”, but I will clearly state that he advocates government sanctioned murder of the citizens that are deemed “inconvenient”. I have read and understood (as best I could stomach it) his “justification” for not supporting the bill. It’s hard to say that makes it okay, but I understand what you’re getting at. My opinion is that it is sad that he would deny a bill like this just because he is SO pro-choice that he won’t concede any ground. The fact is he voted like he did, all justifications aside. Just because he gives a reason for his vote doesn’t leave me more satisfied.
    Finally, it is a little sad for me that we are having this conversation (not with you Hoey, but in general) because it seems to imply something. It seems to imply that somehow infanticide is more cruel and worthy of condemnation than abortion. Obama’s “defense” for not supporting the bill is that he doesn’t want to concede that a fetus is a person. This is sick, and should be seen every bit as cruel and cowardice as infanticide.

    Again, thanks for your thoughts.

  • Brett

    Trent, do you think you’re clever or something? By responding you’re making it more and more clear about the adjectives I used to describe you. So you’re making me look better, not yourself.

  • Trent G.

    Still with nothing significant to say does Brett actually engage ANY of the issues? Nope, instead he reaches into his bag of tricks. What does he find? Brett employs the always fatal “I’m the rubber you’re the glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” How could I possibly argue against such an educated person?

  • Hoey

    Hi Trent,

    My apologies, I should have made clear that I didn’t think you were labelling Obama as the “laughing butcher” but I felt that was what was happening in the main posts and articles linked therein.

    I disagree entirely and emphatically with Obama’s main position on abortion. I can not and will not maintain that abortion is anything other than an abhorrent feature of western society.

    I can completely understand that Obama’s justification would not satisfy you. I don’t expect it would. But at the risk of merely restating my previous posts, I believe Obama recognized the legal provision that was already there and decided that the O’Malley bill was a political manoeuver. If Obama’s interpretation of the bill’s legal ramification is correct, he would not have been conceding just “any ground”, he would have been conceding all the ground.

    Trent, I stand by your contempt at Obama’s refusal to recognize a fetus as a person. My concern is that, in “rabble rousing” over the “juicy” (but ultimately misguided) issue of Obama’s opposition to the Born-Alive Act, we’re actually under-mining the genuine argument against his support for abortion.

  • Trent G.

    I understand what you’re saying and I agree, in a way. There is definitely a danger of caricaturizing (not sure if that’s a word:) Obama’s position and making him out to be something he is not. But at the same time I’m not quite sure his explanation matches with all of the facts. If what he says is true than why would the same bill pass on the federal level without all the democrats going nuts? Is Obama the only one to see this? And why wouldn’t he immediately pass SB1082 with this amendment:


    Instead we see him postponing and holding the bill until ultimately it is killed. I understand (even though I’m disgusted by) Obama’s justification but it doesn’t seem consistent with all the facts.

  • Trent G.

    Allow me to clarify what I think about this. I don’t think Obama is saying with a smile, “Let’s kill live birthed babies.”, but I think, in his zeal for abortion, he killed a bill out of ignorance (I say this because it seems his fellow democrats didn’t see the detriment to the pro-choice movement he did). Whereas, the term “infanticide” may be a bit much, he was unwilling to pass a bill that protected live, birthed babies. A bill with the same language that his companions in Washington passed. Therefore, I think his actions concerning this bill should be seen as an sickening. And it also seems inconsistent that he wouldn’t pass the bill with the amendment that alleviated his concerns. So, I think he should be held accountable for his actions on this bill despite his excuses.

  • Hoey


    I agree, there does seem to be an inconsistency there. I don’t have all the facts on what happened with SB 1082.

    I would like to clarify something, however. He didn’t hold the amended bill and wait for it to die. He brought it before the Health & Human Services committee he chaired. It was voted on there and defeated 6-4 along party lines.

    I don’t know the ins and outs of the events around this amended bill going to committee. But it strikes me as odd that these 6 Democrats would all vote against it when the entire party was behind HR 2175. That leads me to lean (and I stress lean because I don’t know the facts) towards believing there was something about SB 1082 to set it apart from HR 2175.

  • Trent G.

    I appreciate the interaction. The thing is, I can’t find anything indicating any difference between HR 2175 and SB 1082. Instead, all I can find is identical language in the two bills. Which is simply stunning that Obama would vote against it since none of the very pro-choice democrats in Washington did. Again, it seems that there is a disconnect between his explanation and his actions.

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