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Obama on abortion

In response to the comments on this post, I thought it worthwhile to do a little digging. Here’s a site detailing Obama’s record on this issue. From the pro-life point of view, it’s not pretty. He has, for example, voted against a partial-birth abortion ban that provided for an exception regarding the life of the mother because it lacked an exception for the health of the mother, an exception capacious enough to amount to pba on demand. He also voted against the parental notification bill. And his rating from National Right to Life is a big fat zero.

In other words, for all the agonizing in which he engages, his record is that of a garden-variety pro-choicer.

Indeed, consider what he says about his role as the father of two daughters:

“I’m all for education for our young people, encouraging abstinence until marriage, but I also believe that young people do things regardless of what their parents tell them to do and I don’t want my daughters ending up in really difficult situations because I didn’t communicate to them, how to protect themselves if they make a mistake. I think we’ve got to have that kind of comprehensive view that says family planning and education for our young people and so forth – to prevent teen pregnancies, to prevent the kinds of situations that lead to women having to struggle with these difficult decisions and we should be supportive of those efforts."

Note that he starts with abstinence and then moves to birth control (which undermines the abstinence message). But he’s willing to let his daughters "struggle with the issues," in the event they are confronted with "unplanned parenthood."

Note also that the Clinton campaign has attacked him, not in particularly good faith (of course), to which the Obama campaign has responded by emphasizing his ties to Planned Parenthood.

Interestingly, you can’t find much on Obama’s campaign website about abortion--only this. His reluctance to talk about it--despite a record that abortion advocates ought to regard as sterling--provides an interesting contrast with HRC’s forthright embrace of "choice."

Update: Our friend the Friar notes an odd turn of phrase earlier in the campaign season.

Discussions - 6 Comments

Joe, this link takes you to an article by Terry Jeffrey discussing Obama's record. Obama voted against the anti-infanticide bill. Later, he personally killed it in committee. An identical bill passed the U.S. Senate 98-0 and was even defended by noted liberals like Barbara Boxer. Jeffrey quite accurately calls Obama "the most pro-abortion candidate ever."

"conception" was simply his way of describing a developmental process, not the actual recognition of personhood. It fits into his pro-choice position...

I think Christopher has it right on that...but if he has it wrong, and Obama "develops" a more moderate abortion position under the fire of pro-lifer in the general, it would be a huge boost for Obama. That is, if he has second-thoughts about his past and proven pro-abortion orthodoxy/extremism, the time to reveal those thoughts isn't now, but once he's won the nomination. That's why pro-lifers need to start firing away on his Audacity of Infanticide record now, b/c its win-win-win for them. Either Obama's development occurs in plain sight of the Democratic voters and thus victoriously brings along the some of the Obama generation with him in this development, to the future greater sanity of the Democratic party, or everyone sees such development being shot down in plain daylight by the pro-choice extremists who set the Democratic orthodoxy on these issues, or third, far and away the most likely, the tantalizing hints of Obama's development are shown to be nothing--the man's a sweet-talkin' same-old pro-abortionist.

And Joe, why do you give Obama grief on his endorsement of abstinence? This seems to me to be the stance of many morally traditional parents towards their daughters: A) wait till you're married (or, well into your college years) because that is what our religion (or, what sensible and middle-class morality) requires; but B) know that this thing called contraception exists, and here is what it does, [many Catholics go on to explain that their religion opposes it] and that C) here are our morals, which we strongly urge you to adopt, but we'll be here for you no matter what.

I don't mean to give him grief on his endorsement of abstinence, but on his failure to say that--even for his daughters--there's a responsibility that goes with the sexual risk. The "get out of pregnancy free card" that he dangles undermines the message of responsibility and abstinence.

That would be interesting Carl, but such "development" really would only occur inside a much larger paradigm shift. Modern 'philosophical anthropology', the deepest answers to the question "what is man", are very deep things. Your really talking about a religious conversion, something that would challenge everything Obama believes, about life, the universe, and everything (let alone politics).

Probably the best way to judge a person as to how he stands on such questions is to understand the church he goes to. The United Church of Christ is firmly in the modernist, unitarian camp, so much so it is nor really "Christian" in any normal sense of the term. I see nothing in Obama's life that leads to me he is undergoing such a fundamental change. Do you?

I don't think it requires that huge of a paradigmn shift for the type of development I think is possible for smart Democrats. It would consist of A)dropping the opposition to partial-birth abortion bans, perhaps also accepting bans, Bill Galston-style(defend the core of the right, concede its politically deadly edges), on late-term abortions, B) admitting that the reason abortion should be "rare" is that in most cases it is a wrong-doing that unfortunately is the sort of wrong-doing govt. has to permit if the principle of privacy is to be maintained, C) admitting that Roe v. Wade has problems in its jurisprudential reasoning and that the sky need not necessarily fall were it to be overturned, since most states would protect most abortions, and the SC could deliver a Roe-light decision, even in overturning the orginal, that still required the principle of privacy to be taken into account in some manner. A moderate pro-choice position is possible--it would be at bottom incoherent, but so is any pro-choice position that won't extend Obama's audacity into Peter Singer, infanticide endorsing, territory. But such a position would help the Democrats, and probably the country as a whole.

And just to be ultra-clear, this isn't my position. The right to privacy, contra 40-plus years of SC jurisprudence, is NOT in the Constitution, nor would it be wise for us to pass an amendment to put it in.

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