Sunday :: Apr 13, 2008

Pro-Choice and Abortions


by eriposte

Sen. Obama on the campaign trail via BDBlue at Corrente (emphasis mine, throughout this post):

The Democratic presidential candidate favors abortion rights, but he noted his support from former Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania who are anti-abortion.

"It may be that those who have opposed abortion get a sense that I'm listening to them and respect their position even though where we finally come down may be different," he told reporters at a news conference.

"The mistake that pro-choice forces have sometimes made in the past, and this is a generalization so it has not always been the case, has been to not acknowledge the wrenching moral issues involved in it," he said.

"Most Americans recognize that what we want to do is avoid, or help people avoid, having to make this difficult choice. That nobody is pro-abortion, abortion is never a good thing."

I disagree on one thing in particular. Most Americans probably do recognize that we should try to avoid abortion as much as possible, but I don't believe that most Americans believe that "abortion is never a good thing". The latter view is that of those who consider themselves "pro-life".

There's a reason why most Americans tend to be "pro-choice" as opposed to "anti-abortion". There are occasions where abortion is needed to save the life of a mother or to allow women to make the personal decisions on whether to retain a fetus after an incident of rape or incest. There are other occasions where women need to make deeply personal (and sometimes wrenching) decisions about whether to advance unwanted pregnancies. These are difficult choices but framing abortion as "never a good thing" is not particularly helpful to the pro-choice movement.

I remember Sen. Clinton got flak when she discussed how abortions should be "safe, legal and rare" and that it is a "tragic choice to many, many women" but she did not make the claim that abortions are never a good thing. Her entire speech at the time is worth reading, but as she says near the end:

Yes we do have deeply held differences of opinion about the issue of abortion. I for one respect those who believe with all their hearts and conscience that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available. But that does not represent even the majority opinion within the anti-abortion community. There are exceptions for rape and for incest, for the life of the mother. Those in the pro-choice community who have fought so hard for so many years, not only to protect Roe v. Wade and the law of the land, but to provide the resources that would effectuate that constitutional right, believe just as strongly the point of view based on experience and conscience that they have come to. The problem I always have is what is the proper role of government in making this decision? That is why I started with two stories about Romania and China. When I spoke to the conference on women in Beijing in 1995 -- ten years ago this year -- I spoke out against any government interfering with the reproductive rights and decisions of women and families.

So we have a lot of experience from around the world that is a cautionary tale about what happens when a government substitutes its opinion for an individual's. There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances. But we cannot expect to have the kind of positive results that all of us are hoping for to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions if our government refuses to assist girls and women with their health care needs, a comprehensive education and accurate information.

Here are some comments from a few female bloggers on Sen. Obama's statement (language alert): BDBlue at Corrente, Kate Harding at Shakesville, Katiebird at The Confluence. As Kate says:

This isn't a "Hey, we just see things differently!" thing. This is a "Hey, we believe in a woman's right to bodily autonomy, and they don't" thing. Also? Pro-choice "forces" have consistently acknowledged the "wrenching moral issues" that any individual woman with an unplanned pregnancy might face, but we don't acknowledge the question of whether that should be her choice as a wrenching moral issue, because it's not. It's a f****** no-brainer. And finally, those anti-choice voters you're reaching out to? They do not want to help women "avoid having to make this difficult choice." If they did, they'd support comprehensive sex ed, accessible birth control, and emergency contraception wholeheartedly.

Oh come on, Kate! You're nit-picking! The important thing is that he's pro-choice and he'll stand firm on that!

Yeah. Except in 2005, Obama was planning to vote to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice, because he "expressed admiration for Roberts's intellect" and said that "if he were president he wouldn't want his judicial nominees opposed simply on ideological grounds." His chief of staff, Pete Rouse, had to point out to him that voting for Roberts might just come back to bite him in the ass if he ran for president.
"Pete's very good at looking around the corners of decisions and playing out the implications of them," Obama said an interview when asked about that discussion. "He's been around long enough that he can recognize problems and pitfalls a lot quicker than others can."
Yeah, wow, that Rouse really has some amazing political insight! I mean, who else could have figured out that voting to confirm Roberts might be a bad idea for an ostensibly liberal, pro-choice Democrat with presidential aspirations? It's not like Obama had a crystal ball, people!

You want to know what upsets me most about that article? I mean besides him not wanting to oppose judicial nominees on "ideological grounds"? What bothers me most is that you don't have to go digging to find it; it's on his own f****** website. (Though I found it via The Ghost of Dr. Violet Socks.) The man does not even have the good sense to be embarrassed by the first four paragraphs of that article; by his own admission that without outside help, he couldn't recognize the pitfalls of voting to confirm Roberts; or by the strong implication that he only voted no so it wouldn't haunt him in a presidential run, not because he actually opposed Roberts.

[...]

And I'm only getting warmed up. Let's talk about that Advocate interview.

Here's an extract from the article posted on Sen. Obama's website, which is a copy of a Washington Post article from August 2007:

It was the fall of 2005, and the celebrated young senator -- still new to Capitol Hill but aware of his prospects for higher office -- was thinking about voting to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice. Talking with his aides, the Illinois Democrat expressed admiration for Roberts's intellect. Besides, Obama said, if he were president he wouldn't want his judicial nominees opposed simply on ideological grounds.

And then Rouse, his chief of staff, spoke up. This was no Harvard moot-court exercise, he said. If Obama voted for Roberts, Rouse told him, people would remind him of that every time the Supreme Court issued another conservative ruling, something that could cripple a future presidential run. Obama took it in. And when the roll was called, he voted no.

[Note: As I've mentioned before, among other things, Sen. Obama also assertively expressed his opposition to what he called a "quixotic fight" - i.e., a filibuster of the Roberts nomination].

Kate goes on to talk about Sen. Obama position on gays and other matters. NYCweboy discusses a couple of recent interviews given by Sen. Obama (here) and Sen. Clinton (here). Both of his posts are worth reading to better understand the views of the two candidates on gay issues, as is Kate's post.

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