Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Abortion and Obama

I want to get into Barack Obama's speech in more depth, but I loved, loved this portion of it:

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

And this is the central theme of the Obama's candidacy, to get past all of the divisiveness that turns our country in a never ending war of words, a war that never ends, a war where nothing substantive gets done. Instead his message is to build on common beliefs and common interests, to get at the root of the problems and to find both common cause and compromise.

There has been a lot of slander on Obama's abortion views. It's pretty clear that he stands pretty clearly in the pro-choice camp, but there's been a lot of talk and some controversy that his stance is even more dark and mysterious than this, that he actually supports infaticide. Really? Does that even make sense?

Read the whole thing on fact check that details three bills in question, 2001, 2002, and 2003.

Here's some quotes:
Obama opposed the 2001 and 2002 "born alive" bills as backdoor attacks on a woman's legal right to abortion, but he says he would have been "fully in support" of a similar federal bill that President Bush had signed in 2002, because it contained protections for Roe v. Wade.

Regarding the 2003 bill, it did have provisions to protect Roe v. Wade in it and that Obama reportedly voted against it in committee. That's where it gets complicated, and you will need to read it and explain it to me. But I really doubt, no I know, that Obama is not in favor of infaticide in any respect:

What we can say is that many other people – perhaps most – think of "infanticide" as the killing of an infant that would otherwise live. And there are already laws in Illinois, which Obama has said he supports, that protect these children even when they are born as the result of an abortion. Illinois compiled statute 720 ILCS 510/6 states that physicians performing abortions when the fetus is viable must use the procedure most likely to preserve the fetus' life; must be attended by another physician who can care for a born-alive infant; and must "exercise the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as would be required of a physician providing immediate medical care to a child born alive in the course of a pregnancy termination which was not an abortion." Failure to do any of the above is considered a felony.

Nonetheless, I am pro-life, I am against abortion, and I would be somewhat concerned if a presidential candidate actually would support their own family to have an abortion.

In that regard, there's been some controversy over this quote a few months ago:

it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I've got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16. You know, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information."

Now, I am sure Obama would like to rephrase this if given a chance. Look, this whole thing is tricky. I know well and am affected by someone who is raising a child as a single parent, whose father has never been part of the child's life. And the mother is struggling trying to balance it all.

Her son is precious, a gift from God, but life would be so much better for both the mother and the son if the birth happened differently. I think that was Obama's primary point. That we should have a comprehensive approach to teenage pregnancy and sexuality. And surely, you would have to live in a box if you believe that we could solve these problems just by teaching abstinence while the storms of hyper-sexuality swarm in virtually every part of a teenager's life.

But back to Obama, I am sure he respects and cares for life. But with abortion and unwed pregnancies, these issues are complicated, more complicated than most people seem to understand, tied down as we are to our own limited and unique experiences. One quick example, I have a friend who had to file for bankruptcy partially because insurance wouldn't cover a DNC required after she had a miscarriage, denied because the procedure, it was felt, was too close to an abortion.

Having said all of that, the abortion issue is not even all that relevant in regards to a presidential election. A president has absolutely no power to overturn Roe v. Wade. As far as I understand it, this would have to come either through an ammendment to the Constitution by a hyper Congress majority(?) or through a Supreme Court decision, interpreting the Constitution differently than it does now.

Now, some people would then choose a President based solely on how they would select Supreme Court justices. I guess there is something to this argument, but its tricky to know how a president's selections will go. Some of the more liberal justices were selected by Republican presidents. Personally, I am just mainly concerned that qualified, competent and fair thinking justices are nominated, and that a president is not tied down too much to ideology in the selection process. Competence and fair thinking first, ideology last. I love having a balanced court which is something we have now.

And really, tell me again, what has Bush Jr done to limit abortions? Has abortion rates gone up or down during the past eight years? I have no idea because nobody is talking about it, including George W. Bush.

But the bottom line, is that I want a competent, qualified, and effective president. Certainly I'm not going to let the abortion issue hijack my choice.


H said...

"if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."

I have girls too and I would NEVER, NEVER, NEVER say that! I would never even think this statement. I don't think there is a way to rephrase that thought.

tempe turley said...


But you are a woman...

Cut Obama some slack, for being a man.

tempe turley said...


Actually, I'm not sure I understand where you are coming from...

If my daughter got pregnant at 14, 15, 16 it would be an incredibly anguishing thing.

I remember how emotional an experience it was when it did happen to someone close to me...

I'm not sure a thought like that wouldn't cross my mind at least for a moment...

Obviously Obama misspoke, which happened primarily because he was trying to strike an incredibly difficult balance on an incredibly touchy issue knowing that there were all sorts of people ready to pounce on any mis-spoken word, compounded by the fact that he was (and is) still pretty new at this...

Heather Weir said...

Thanks for the post Scott. I have really enjoyed reading your point of view. It kind of gives balance to everyone I know. I'm sure it must be hard for each of the candidates to always say the right thing but when it comes to a human life I don't think there is room for a slip like the one I mentioned.

I really did like your thoughts on not voting for one issue thing. I will always keep that in mind when voting in the future. But the moral issues do stand high in who I would pick. alond with the other important issues as taxes, war, health care and the like.

H said...

Scott, you can't have it your way all the time. Obama is new at this so you have to cut him some slack. But then, you want us to believe that he is experienced enough to run the country. McCain talks about "Czechoslovakia" and the media rips him up and down since the country has recently been split in 2. Personally, I'd much prefer the later mistake (one that is based on McCain's many years of knowing the country as a whole) as opposed to considering pregnancy a punishment.

Just something to think about. And yes, I am a woman, and I do consider pregnancy a punishment to my body because it feels that way to me. The beautiful life that comes from the pregnancy however should never be considered punishment.

All that being said, I would also NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, cast my presidential vote based on one statement. (at least, not a statement I can think of)

Davey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Davey said...

Punishment may have been a poor choice of words but it may have some semantic validity. Nobody ever talks about teen pregnancy in terms of how blessed those young mothers are to have the great gift of children. In fact, if one were to do so they would probably be considered out of touch and insensitive.

Teen sex is a poor choice and one of the consequences of that choice is pregnancy. Maybe Obama would prefer the term consequence to punishment, maybe he would change it if given the chance. It doesn't matter. What matters is that teen pregnancy is undesirable no matter how great the blessings are.

RJ said...

It's clear that those words were not a representation of his beliefs, so lets just forgive him for a mistake that isn't a serious one.