Barack Obama has sought to bring pro-lifers and pro-choicers together to find a middle ground on the issue of abortion. With the help of noted conservative legal scholar, pro-life activist, and former Romney supporter Doug Kmiec, Obama instigated the effort to amend the Democratic Party platform on abortion to explicitly recognize life and the decision to have a child:
The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.
The platform continues to have the reduction in frequency of abortions as an end goal:
“We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.”
Doug Kmiec has elaborated at length on his decision, as a pro-life activist, to endorse Obama. Just last month he released a book laying out his arguments in support of Obama. He has stressed that it is more than unclear whether the Supreme Court would ever overturn Roe v. Wade and its subsequent precedent. Morever, even if it did, abortion would not be illegal, it would be merely sent back to the states for each regulate or prohibit on a state-by-state basis.
Of his decision to endorse Obama, Kmiec has said:
What convinced me about his integrity on those issues was his willingness to talk about social responsibility to audiences that arenâ€™t used to hearing that message. For example, when he went to speak to Planned Parenthood, he could have done what every Democrat does: wave the pro-choice flag and talk about defending Roe. He did that, but he also said something very important, that sexual intimacy has to be culturally understood as being a mature choice about being open to creating new life and the responsibility of new life, and that we have an obligation in our churches and in our schools to convey that information.
And so at some point you have to decide whether the incidence of abortion will be more affected by the another conservative Republican appointing the right person to the Supreme court, and resolved as a legal issue, or by a candidate who wants to end the politics of division and who has a healthy responsibility for religion and its place in public thinking and public discourse. I came to the conclusion that his personal faith journey, which causes him to fully recognize how faith answers the hunger in the human soul, and his willingness to talk about self-responsibility, would make him mindful of opposing views on abortion.
Through his endorsement, Kmiec has gained access to and influence over Obama, worked with him to amend the Democratic platform, and has pledged to work with him to reduce the frequency of abortion during an Obama presidency through constructively approaching the abortion “clash of absolutes” and lobbying for things like the 95-10 Initiative.
Obama has always spoken respectfully of and actively courted pro-life voters. In the candidate’s last debate, Obama said: “I think that abortion is a very difficult issue and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on.” He is seeking, however, to find common ground with pro-life supporters like Doug Kmiec. In his platform, Obama states that he will support the cause of life by “drastically reducing abortions through giving women and families the support and the tools they need to choose life.”
From that same debate, in response to McCain’s allegations about the “born alive” legislation, Obama said:
If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that’s because it’s not true. The — here are the facts. 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 fact is that there was already a law on the books in Illinois that required providing lifesaving treatment, which is why not only myself but pro-choice Republicans and Democrats voted against it. And the Illinois Medical Society, the organization of doctors in Illinois, voted against it. Their Hippocratic Oath would have required them to provide care, and there was already a law in the books.
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. And I attempted, as many have in the past, of including that so that it is constitutional. And that was rejected, and that’s why I voted present, because I’m willing to support a ban on late-term abortions as long as we have that exception.
The last point I want to make on the issue of abortion. This is an issue that — look, it divides us. And in some ways, it may be difficult to — to reconcile the two views. But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, “We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.” Those are all things that we put in the Democratic platform for the first time this year, and I think that’s where we can find some common ground, because nobody’s pro-abortion. I think it’s always a tragic situation. We should try to reduce these circumstances.
Ultimately, boiling one’s vote down to a single issue like abortion — one on which pro-life presidents’ historically have had little influence — ignores a broad swath of other extremely important and relevant issues and can undermine legitimate debate in these areas. Moreover, I think there are plenty of good reasons why a Mormon may decide to support Barack Obama, including his economic policies, his push to move beyond divisive partisanship, and his stand on moral issues like poverty, the environment, foreign policy and our conduct in the war on terror.