Abortion, Obama: Extreme Deeds, Meaningless Words

November 4, 2008 | 51 comments
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People who want to vote for Obama labor mightily to get around his extreme pro-choice/pro-abortion record.

I recently posted a long list of Obama’s extreme pro-choice/pro-abortion record and statements. An attempted counterpoint shows the difficulty that his supporters have grappling with these records and these statements if they are not extremist on the issues themselves.

The main arguments in the attempted counterpoint are as follows:

First, Obama has recently made several rhetorical statements about the importance of finding of third way and of coming together on abortion. Second, according to Doug Kmiec, its hopeless to overturn Roe anyway. Third, Obama has promised that his welfare spending will reduce abortions. Fourth, Obama has tried to explain away his votes and positions on Illinois’ born alive infant protection law and on the Partial Birth Abortion Act.

The first argument is an argument that we should trust Obama’s good intentions–or, at least, his statement that he has good intentions. His record, his policies, and his specific promises are pretty extreme, so we only have his vague campaign rhetoric to rely on. A true moderate would not be against parental notification laws or have a 100% record from National Abortion Rights League or a 0% record from the National Right to Life Council. Obama offers just words. A mess of pottage has more to it.

The second is an argument of despair. Its also baseless With Roberts and Alito, pro-lifers achieved their first major abortion law victory in years when the Supreme Court upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Act. We are one more Supreme Court appointee away from overturning or cabining Roe v. Wade. Obama’s appointees will be Ginsburgs, who would almost certainly undo the minimal progress that has already been made–parental notification laws, waiting periods and informed consent laws, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, the Partial Birth Abortion Act–let alone actually make any progress on Roe v. Wade. Even if a McCain were constrained by the Democrats to appoint Kennedys instead of Thomases, we would still see real progress on the abortion front. Why should pro-lifers give up on the cusp of success?

The third is a prime example of the politician’s trick of explaining that all problems are nails and his pet policies are the hammer. Obama has not actually identified any concrete assistance he would like to provide women or children that he thinks would reduce abortion. He opposes moderate measures like parental notification laws that have been empirically shown to reduce abortion. He has promised to cut funding for crisis pregnancy centers. He has refused to sign on to the specific public welfare and social assistance program advocated by the Democrats for Life, probably because they include a few minor notification or informed consent type measures as part of their total proposal.

The fourth is only valid if Obama *successfully* explained away his votes and his position. He hasn’t, not even close.

There was a bill that was put forward before the Illinois Senate that said you have to provide lifesaving treatment and that would have helped to undermine Roe v. Wade.

The bill did require lifesaving treatment. As Obama knows, an Illinois law could never “undermine” Roe v. Wade, a federal constitutional decision. Further, Obama opposed a version of the bill that included an express statement that it only applied if there were no conflicts with Roe. The only true statement here is that Obama opposed a bill that would have required lifesaving treatment. As chairman of the committee that heard the bill, Obama was personally responsible for killing it himself on more than one occasion. Later, when it made it to the floor over his opposition, he was the only legislature who spoke against it, though I believe others voted against it, or at least voted “present.”

The fact is that there was already a law on the books in Illinois that required providing lifesaving treatment

The Attorney General of Illinois provided an opinion that the law already on the books did not require the treatment. This opinion was made available to the legislature, including to Obama. Obama heard evidence that live-birth abortion babies were being abandoned to die. He has never contested any of this. And there is absolutely no record that at the time he opposed born alive infant protection because he thought the law was redundant. Instead he went on record as opposing it because it would burden the original decision to have an abortion.

With respect to partial-birth abortion, I am completely supportive of a ban on late-term abortions, partial-birth or otherwise, as long as there’s an exception for the mother’s health and life, and this did not contain that exception

All the opponents of the Partial Birth Abortion Act claimed to support it *in principle* if there were enough exceptions made to it. Obama is no different. Like most other opponents, he says he wants a ban on aborting partially-born babies only if an abortionist can circumvent the ban by certifying that he thinks the woman’s mental health or other forms of well-being might be minimally adversely affected. Abortionists like Tiller in Kansas (who performs many of America’s abortions of late-term babies) have stated that in their opinion any time a woman wants a particular abortion procedure performed, it would be detrimental to her mental health if she were denied it. Obama knows this. His qualified support of the a ban on partial birth abortions is an unqualified mirage.

And of course Obama has never even attempted to explain away his support of the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, his support for federal abortion funding (some moderate!), and his many other radical pro-choice statements and positions.

Ultimately pro-lifers qua pro-lifers cannot support Obama. The attempted counterpoint admits this when it derides single-issue voting and finally suggests that pro-lifers vote for Obama not because they are pro-lifers but despite being pro-lifers. All right. I cannot in conscience, not in a country where 1 million babies are aborted each year, 100,000 late-term babies are aborted each year, where over 900,000 babies are aborted for reasons of convenience, and where 90% of Down Syndrome children are killed in the womb. Others’ consciences may differ. But if so I urge them to be fully informed about what they are embracing. Much better to be a reluctant enabler than a head-long dupe.

Update: see rebuttal here.

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51 Responses to Abortion, Obama: Extreme Deeds, Meaningless Words

  1. Aluwid on November 4, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    So the philosophy of “Pro-Lifers for Obama” seems to be that pro-life people should just give in, let abortion remain legalized, and focus on “reducing the number of abortions” instead.

    Well I’m all in favor of compromise but I’d prefer if we switched things around a little. So I’d suggest the following:

    The pro-choice people should give in, let abortions of convenience be outlawed, and instead focus their attention on “convincing women that they don’t want to choose to have an abortion.” Because if their choice falls inline with the law anyway, then what’s the problem?

    Come on people, it’s unity time! Stop being divisive and just give in already!

  2. Steve Evans on November 4, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Calgon, take me away!

  3. JimD on November 4, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Touché, Aluwid.

  4. Brad Kramer on November 4, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Gosh, I mean I was so, like, on the fence before, but this post is just so informative and your logic so airtight: since pro-lifers must be single issue voters (otherwise they aren’t really, authentically pro-life), and since Obama is not pro-life, the answer is obvious. My eyes have been opened.

  5. JimD on November 4, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    THAT’s it! Next person who snidely denigrates “single-issue voters” will be treated to a remark about Hitler being OK, except for that single issue about the Jews.

    I have a Godwin’s Law, and I’m not afraid to use it!!!!!

  6. Kaimi Wenger on November 4, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    It’s Abortion Week on T&S. Remember, live every week like it’s Abortion Week.

  7. Hunter on November 4, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Adam:

    You say, “We are one more Supreme Court appointee away from overturning or cabining Roe v. Wade.”

    How do you know this?

  8. Peter LLC on November 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    People who want to vote for Obama labor mightily to get around his extreme pro-choice/pro-abortion record.

    I’ll bet you a nickel that most didn’t give it a second thought. Which means that either there is a hole in the souls of Obama’s supporters or they are of the view that there are bigger fish to fry.

  9. Timer on November 4, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    According to

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/25s3099.html

    and

    http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2007/10/11/index.html

    the region of the world with the lowest abortion rate is Western Europe, noted for generous health insurance benefits and safe, legal access to abortions. If you think that abortion bans are more effective at preventing abortion than increased health insurance, contraception, and social work benefits for the poor, you are welcome to vote for McCain. Fortunately (given that Obama is probably going to win) there seems to be some evidence on the other side as well.

  10. Brad Kramer on November 4, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Peter,
    The hole in my soul (which I naively tried to fill by casting a vote for a false Messiah) has been filled to the brim with Adam’s righteous indignation.

    [[Ed.-- Cool it, kiddo. More comments in this vein will be removed.]

  11. Peter LLC on November 4, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Hitler being OK

    Well, he did help Germany out of the depression and the autobahn is pretty sweet, to say nothing of the Volkswagen.

  12. john f. on November 4, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    C’mon Brad, you have to admit, you love abortion.

  13. Steve Evans on November 4, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    The manatee has become the mento. Well played white polynesian.

  14. JimD on November 4, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    the region of the world with the lowest abortion rate is Western Europe, noted for generous health insurance benefits and safe, legal access to abortions. If you think that abortion bans are more effective at preventing abortion than increased health insurance, contraception, and social work benefits for the poor, you are welcome to vote for McCain. Fortunately (given that Obama is probably going to win) there seems to be some evidence on the other side as well.

    Why can’t we do both?

  15. Peter LLC on November 4, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I thought as much, Brad. Righteous indignation is like a gas, expanding to fill the volume of any holes that may pierce the souls of the damned.

    [Ed.--really I should remove this, but its too funny. ]

  16. DavidH on November 4, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    The abortion issue goes beyond Roe v. Wade. Once Roe v. Wade is overturned, and the issue returned to the states, abortion will likely be legal in the most populated states, and most women will be able to get elective abortions, perhaps with some travel required. The chance of a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, or a Supreme Court majority doing so, is next to zero.

    Ultimately, a significant reduction in abortion rates will depend upon moral persuasion and a change in attitudes of the people of the United States, not just a change in a Justice or two.

  17. Utahn in CT on November 4, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    What #6 said.

  18. Jeremy on November 4, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Righteous indignation is like a gas, expanding to fill the volume of any holes that may pierce the souls of the damned.

    This phrase makes me wish I knew how to cross-stitch.

  19. RD on November 4, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Why the entire campaign season should be condensed on Election Day to a single issue – an issue that most LDS will never have to confront in their personal lives, no less – is beyond me. A disappointing showing on/by T&S today.

  20. Jim Cobabe on November 4, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Adam,

    Wow! — I am impressed. I was thinking the Bloggernacle was just a safe, warm cosy spot for liberals to snuggle up and pretend that the world is a happy and righteous place. In truth, we do live in a modern-day Babylon, and too many of us ignore the pitfalls and perils. Abortion practices are certainly chief among the evils of this latter day. How long can this people survive, excusing such depravity with the excuse that it is a matter of personal choice? Of course, such specious logic drags down the innocent as well as the guilty.

  21. Martin Willey on November 4, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    What #20 said. Also, I do not agree that we are a justice or two from overturning Roe v. Wade. I would expect any Supreme Court of any make up to take that step very, very cautiously. Of course, if they did take that step, abortion would only be outlawed in the states that chose to outlaw it, like DavidH said.

  22. Utahn in CT on November 4, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    > What #6 said.

    Sorry, what Kaimi Wenger said (I’m uncomfortable using names of people in the third person like this).

  23. RD on November 4, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Silly me, I must have missed the advertising for Abortion Week. Next time you may want to take a cue from Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

  24. RD on November 4, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    And while we’re at it, write-in Jack Donaghy for President.

  25. John C. on November 4, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Oh, Anti-Roe folk,

    What is the benefit that you see in the removal of Roe? I ask this sincerely, because the benefit of such is unclear to me (aside from, of course, probably discouraging some abortions). Could you please explain how you envision a world after Roe?

  26. Jeremiah J. on November 4, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    DavidH: “Ultimately, a significant reduction in abortion rates will depend upon moral persuasion and a change in attitudes of the people of the United States, not just a change in a Justice or two.”

    Except that there’s a lot of evidence that restrictions on abortion cause abortion rates to decline. If you live in South Texas and Roe gets overturned, you’re probably going to go quite a ways to get an abortion, and maybe you’ll decide to have the kid and give it up for adoption. People respond to costs and disincentives.

    I also don’t see how persuading the vast majority of people that abortion is a grave moral wrong is less utopian than passing a constitutional amendment against abortion. If 75% of Americans believed that abortion is the destruction of a human life, it would still be impossible to impose serious restirctions on abortion nationwide? Would that then be pointless because people could go to Canada?

    Adam: “The attempted counterpoint admits this when it derides single-issue voting and finally suggests that pro-lifers vote for Obama not because they are pro-lifers but despite being pro-lifers…”

    Put me in that camp. I’m very hopeful about Obama on many issues, but his abortion positon is horrible. However:

    “…I cannot in conscience.”

    I don’t doubt your sincerity. But have you ever had to vote against most of your other political values because of the abortion issue? I supported Bush in 2000 because of Stenberg v. Carhart. I don’t regret it, because he won by more than one vote and it was as good an election as any to register my position on the issue (perhaps it was an *especially* good election to do so). But Bush convinced me that the differences between Democrats and Republicans (aside from the abortion issue) are not all small-bore differences about tax rates and funding levels. And I think the Dems are right on some of those.

  27. Adam Greenwood on November 4, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    And I do not doubt yours, Sir. I always appreciate your comments on our blog. You are correct that most of the positions the Republicans don’t represent me on, the Democrats don’t represent me on either.

  28. Dan Ellsworth on November 4, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Jeremiah J (26),

    I’m very hopeful about Obama on many issues, but his abortion position is horrible.

    That’s my feeling as well. It’s very unusual for me to agree with Adam Greenwood so strongly, but I wish Obama voters would simply acknowledge Obama’s abortion position for what it is: a complete and unequivocal refusal to consider the humanity of a fetus at any stage of development. I have never seen him make any attempt to understand or acknowledge any dimension of the abortion issue — regardless of the term of the fetus in question — other than a woman’s right to choose.
    I really do like Obama on a number of other issues, such as energy and foreign policy, but let’s call his abortion position exactly what it is: it’s cold, and yes, horrible.

  29. John C. on November 4, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Was my question too naive? Could someone provide an answer (however tentative), please?

  30. Julie M. Smith on November 4, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    “If you live in South Texas and Roe gets overturned, you’re probably going to go quite a ways to get an abortion, and maybe you’ll decide to have the kid and give it up for adoption.”

    This was a really good argument 20 years ago when abortion=surgery. Now that abortion=pill, I would expect it to be just as hard as getting a joint is in South Texas.

  31. Sam B. on November 4, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Adam,
    I’ve never once labored to get around his abortion record–I voted for Obama with nary a though of abortion. While abortion is clearly a bad thing in almost every situation, it is not a political issue I care about. It would not register on my voter radar if Obama advocated banning all abortions or banning all banning of all abortions. Because. I. Don’t. Care.

    So don’t tell me I labor to justify his position. Because I don’t know it, and I frankly don’t care to know it. (For the record, I also don’t know McCain’s abortion position. No idea on Biden’s, although I’m pretty sure I can guess Palin’s.) I do like his tax position, though, and his health-care, and his apparent willingness to not demonize those who disagree with him.

  32. Adam Greenwood on November 4, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Now that abortion=pill, I would expect it to be just as hard as getting a joint is in South Texas.

    The kinds of abortions that are most likely to be banned are also the kind that are surgery. Also I’m not sure where you’re getting your information that most abortions are done with a pill you take at home, but I’m pretty sure that’s not yet the case anywhere.

  33. Julie M. Smith on November 4, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Adam, I have no idea what the numbers are. It does seem to me, though, that the conversation that DavidH and Jeremiah are having needs to be tempered with the reality of how the possibility of a pill changes the issue. For Jeremiah to suggest that abortion won’t be accessible in large swaths of the country in a post-Roe world seems to ignore this.

  34. John C. on November 4, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Or if you don’t want to answer that question, could you answer a similar one? Or point me to someone who discusses the post-Roe America without hysteria?

  35. Aluwid on November 4, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    John C,

    “Could you please explain how you envision a world after Roe?”

    I’m sure someone else could explain it better than I but here are my thoughts. If Roe were gone then each state would be able to set it’s own restrictions. At that point the pro-life movement could start pressing legislatures, working on initiatives, etc to put the desired laws in place. The key difference being that the power to change the law would be back in the hands of the people.

    Were you looking for something besides that?

    With Roe gone I believe you’ll see a fracture within the Pro-Life community as disagreements on exceptions (rape/incest) suddenly become important. (I’ll bet the Pro-Choice community would fracture as well). But the key is that today we aren’t able to vote on these matters, in a post-Roe world we would be. So initiatives like Proposition 8 would be possible on a state by state basis.

  36. John C. on November 4, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Thank you, Aluwid. That is what I am looking for. What would you say the “desired laws” should look like (I am asking for your opinion on that)? Why would they be better than what we have now under Roe?

    Are there more answers out there like Aluwid’s? I would very much like to hear them.

  37. Adam Greenwood on November 4, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    JMS,
    the 900,000-1,000,000 abortion figure that you see is mostly figures reported from abortion clinics, i.e, “surgeries.” I don’t think RU-486 plays much into it. And there’s no way you can use a pill for late-term abortions (about 100,000+/year). Hopelessness isn’t convincing.

  38. DavidH on November 4, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    My point about changing minds of people does not just go to the minds of the women (and their spouses or partners) considering an abortion, but also to voters. Here in my conservative state of Arizona, I believe there have been two ballot initiatives that would have limited abortions to some degree (I do not recall the substance) in the 20 years I have lived here; both failed miserably. This may be because Arizona conservatism is more libertarian than in other places. But when Roe disappears, outside of a few states, I do not see major restrictions’ being imposed by legislation, unless the citizens at large change their minds about the matter. And even if such restrictions are imposted, as Julie points out, it will not be difficult to get a pill induced abortion.

    That being said, there would be some reduction in abortions because some states would restrict or ban abortions, and not every woman will desire or be able to evade the new limits. Moreover, law also performs a “teaching” function indicating the value society places upon pre-born life.

    Thus, I do favor overturning Roe v. Wade, and I do favor imposing restrictions on abortion.

  39. Julie M. Smith on November 4, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    “Hopelessness isn’t convincing.”

    I’m not hopeless–I’m just convinced that we’re better off reducing demand than making the supply illegal, esp. since pills are so very hard to keep out of people’s hands, legal or not.

  40. Aluwid on November 4, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    John C,

    I’d just repeat that the key is that the matter would be back in the hands of the people. This means that if you feel that abortion is murder (as many pro-lifers do), and you find it horrifying that your society is allowing it, that you actually have the power to try to persuade others to agree with you. Today we don’t have that ability. We vote for the President yes, but the relationship between that vote and what happens in the Supreme Court is hazy. It’d be nice to have clear up or down votes on abortion laws themselves.

    Regarding what the end-state “desired laws are” – I really think you’d see the current Pro-Life movement break apart. The core agreement would be no abortions of convenience and I suspect that the life of the mother would always be considered as well. But many of us would support rape/incest exceptions and many of us would not, and that would likely be a permanent disagreement.

    My personal preference would be a ban on abortions with exceptions for the life of the mother, a reported rape, or sever permanent medical damage (not mental). Not everyone would agree with me, but we’d get to vote on it and try to convince others to vote our way.

  41. Adam Greenwood on November 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Moreover, law also performs a “teaching” function indicating the value society places upon pre-born life.

    True enough. Well said.

  42. John C. on November 4, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Aluwid,

    How would you enforce the restriction you are tentatively proposing? Medical damage and life, I suppose, are up to doctors. How would you judge the truth of rape claims?

  43. Aluwid on November 4, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    John C,

    I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here, but speaking personally I think that the exception should kick in as long as the rape has been reported to the police. With obviously false reports being treated very harshly.

    I’d point out that this discussion only matters in a post-Roe world. Maybe my idea on how to handle a rape exception is bad, maybe it isn’t. We’d get to discuss it, debate it, and then decide.

  44. JimD on November 4, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Why can’t we do both?

  45. JimD on November 4, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    I’m just convinced that we’re better off reducing demand than making the supply illegal, esp. since pills are so very hard to keep out of people’s hands, legal or not

    I’m still wondering why we can’t do both.

  46. JimD on November 4, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    (apologies for the double-post; I didn’t realize Comment 44 had posted)

  47. Julie M. Smith on November 4, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    JimD, in a world of finite resources, I want every dollar going to pre-natal care for pregnant teens and not to the police officers poking around their bathrooms. I also think strict laws with rape exceptions would result in the ruining of reputations of thousands of young men, while strict laws without rape exceptions are simply wrong.

  48. JimD on November 4, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Julie–

    in a world of finite resources, I want every dollar going to pre-natal care for pregnant teens and not to the police officers poking around their bathrooms.

    I agree with you in theory, but I don’t think we necessarily need to go that far. It would be, administratively, quite simple to limit surgical abortions without sending police officers swarming over hospitals–and if it came to limiting the morning after pill

    I also think strict laws with rape exceptions would result in the ruining of reputations of thousands of young men,

    That strikes me as preferable to either no exception or pure abortion-on-demand. But again, those aren’t the only options. For example, in lieu of a police report you could simply mandate that a woman seeking an abortion on grounds of rape go to a state-licensed counseling center where she could receive preliminary counseling, develop a long-term emotional recovery plan, receive the resources she might need to remove herself from an abusive domestic situation, and be encouraged (but not forced) to file a police report.

  49. Rameumptom on November 5, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    The reality is, the Republican party is walking away from the abortion concept, as it is on other conservative issues. Just look at who has been elected as President and in Congress for the party for the last 8 years and how unconservative their actions have been. Even Bush’s first attempt at a member of the Supreme Court, Meiers, was a Bush hack that was light on her Roe v Wade views.

    Until the Republicans rediscover Ronald Reagan’s conservatism, and put a new emphasis in trying to fix things in a conservative manner (remember how he actually got Congress to fix Social Security back then? Why couldn’t we do it in the last 8 years?), we will not be able to get anyone elected as dog catcher.

    Until our nation re-enthrones moral principles, we will not see any serious movements on abortion or other national issues in a conservative way.

  50. Alison Moore Smith on November 5, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Adam, thank you so much. I couldn’t agree more. Just added a link to this thread from my blog. Thanks for taking the time.

  51. Adam Greenwood on November 7, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Ram Man,

    President Bush was pretty good on the abortion issue, as much as he could be, anyway, given the extreme limits the Supreme Court has put on abortion politics.

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