Barack Obama on Abortion
Democratic incumbent President; IL Senator (2004-2008)
This week, he tried to end the debate with what he called an "accommodation." The employees still will be offered free birth-control coverage, but the benefit will come directly from their insurers, and no religious groups' money will be used.
The question now is whether the maneuver will tamp down the political fire. He appeared to have made progress, winning over the Catholic hospital association and Catholic Charities--although not the nation's bishops.
Evidence suggests that insurers will comply because providing birth-control coverage reduces overall costs (birth control is much cheaper than pregnancy). Obama waded into the details of the dispute himself and personally crafted the solution.
Shortly before the House bill reached the floor, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected a compromise worked out by Congresswoman Lois Capps that would have segregated private funds for abortions from public money on a future health exchange. The bishops called that "money laundering."
The liberal media hailed the measure as a victory for women's rights. Other standard media accounts claimed the measure "will allow pharmaceutical companies to once again supply college-health clinics with discounted birth-control pills and other contraceptives."
But this is misleading. There was no law keeping drug makers from selling their contraceptives to college students at discounted prices--known as "nominal pricing." The problem for the drug makers was that, under a 2005 law, if drug makers offered students a discount on contraceptives, they would also have to slightly discount the same drug to Medicaid. Thanks to Pres. Obama, they aren't "penalized" by Medicare anymore for offering college discounts.
McCAIN: I would never, and have never in all the years I’ve been there, imposed a litmus test on any nominee to the Court. That’s not appropriate to do.
OBAMA: Well, I think it’s true that we shouldn’t apply a strict litmus test and the most important thing in any judge is their capacity to provide fairness and justice to the American people. And it is true that this is going to be, I think, one of the most consequential decisions of the next president. It is very likely that one of us will be making at least one and probably more than one appointments and Roe vs. Wade probably hangs in the balance. I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through.
The six-page summary considers the charged, if peripheral, question of whether fetuses should be able to file lawsuits against their mothers. Obama’s answer, like most courts’: No. He wrote approvingly of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that the unborn cannot sue their mothers for negligence, and he suggested that allowing fetuses to sue would violate the mother’s rights and could, perversely, cause her to take more risks with her pregnancy.
Obama’s article, which begins on pg.823 of Vol.103 of the Harvard Law Review, is available in libraries.
This is an erroneous claim that we first tracked down and debunked more than three years ago when it was being repeated by Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton, among others.
The Guttmacher Institute, whose figures are cited regularly by both sides in the abortion debate, say on their Web site, “In 2005, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million abortions in 2000.”
There’s little to show the decline has come about because of anything President Bush did or didn’t do. In fact, the number of abortions in the U.S. has been falling steadily since the 1980s regardless of whether the person in the White House favored a legal right to abortion or opposed it.
On March 30, 2001, Obama was the only Illinois senator who rose to speak against a bill that would have protected babies who survived late term labor-induced abortion. Obama rose to object that if the bill passed, and a nine-month-old fetus survived a late-term labor-induced abortion was deemed to be a person who had a right to live, then the law would "forbid abortions to take place." Obama further explained the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not allow somebody to kill a child, so if the law deemed a child who survived a late-term labor-induced abortion had a right to live, "then this would be an anti-abortion statute."
Part of the reason they didn’t have it was purposeful, because those who are opposed to abortion have a moral calling to try to oppose what they think is immoral. Oftentimes what they were trying to do was to polarize the debate and make it more difficult for people, so that they could try to bring an end to abortions overall.
As president, my goal is to bring people together, to listen to them, and I don’t think that’s any Republican out there who I’ve worked with who would say that I don’t listen to them, I don’t respect their ideas, I don’t understand their perspective. And my goal is to get us out of this polarizing debate where we’re always trying to score cheap political points and actually get things done.
A: I absolutely think we can find common ground. And it requires a couple of things. It requires us to acknowledge that..
A: This is something that I have not come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don’t presume to know the answer to that question. What I know is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.
But we also recognize the importance of good medical care for women, that we’re also recognizing the importance of age-appropriate education to reduce risks. I do believe that contraception has to be part of that education process.
And if we do those things, then I think that we can reduce abortions and I think we should make sure that adoption is an option for people out there. If we put all of those things in place, then I think we will take some of the edge off the debate.
We’re not going to completely resolve it. At some point, there may just be an irreconcilable difference. And those who are opposed to abortion, I think, should continue to be able to lawfully object and try to change the laws.
The National Organization for Women has strongly endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. A chain e-mail denounced Obama’s record on abortion, citing his “present” votes on a succession of bills sponsored by anti-abortion activists.
The Facts: Under the rules of the Illinois legislature, only yes votes count toward passage of a bill. Planned Parenthood calculated that a ‘present’ vote by Obama would encourage other senators to cast a similar vote, rather than voting for the legislation [and asked Obama to vote ‘present’ as a strategy]. NOW never endorsed the Planne Parenthood strategy of voting ‘present,’ saying “They were horrible bills, and we wanted no votes.” Illinois NOW and Planned Parenthood had different voting strategies on the abortion issue. It was impossible for Obama to satisfy both groups at once.
A: I think that most Americans recognize that this is a profoundly difficult issue for the women and families who make these decisions. They don’t make them casually. And I trust women to make these decisions in conjunction with their doctors and their families and their clergy. And I think that’s where most Americans are. Now, when you describe a specific procedure that accounts for less than 1% of the abortions that take place, then naturally, people get concerned, and I think legitimately so. But the broader issue here is: Do women have the right to make these profoundly difficult decisions? And I trust them to do it. There is a broader issue: Can we move past some of the debates around which we disagree and can we start talking about the things we do agree on? Reducing teen pregnancy; making it less likely for women to find themselves in these circumstances.
I told him I understood his position but had to disagree with it. I explained my belief that few women made the decision to terminate a pregnancy casually; that any pregnant woman felt the full force of the moral issues involved when making that decision; that I feared a ban on abortion would force women to seek unsafe abortions, as they had once done in this country. I suggested that perhaps we could agree on ways to reduce the number of women who felt the need to have abortions in the first place.
“I will pray for you,” the protester said. “I pray that you have a change of heart.” Neither my mind nor my heart changed that day, nor did they in the days to come. But that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own-that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that had been extended to me.
Others, like Justice Breyers, insist that sometimes the original understanding can take you only so far--that on the truly big arguments, we have to take context, history, and the practical outcomes of a decision into account.
I have to side with Justice Breyer’s view of the Constitution--that it is not a static but rather a living document and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.
I see democracy as a conversation to be had. According to this conception, the genius of Madison’s design is not that it provides a fixed blueprint for action. It provides us with a framework and rules, but all its machinery are designed to force us into a conversation.
KEYES: It doesn’t conflict at all. Abortion and capital punishment are at different level of moral concern. Abortion is intrinsically, objectively wrong and sinful whereas capital punishment is a matter of judgment, which is not in and of itself a violation of moral right. The question of whether or not you should apply capital punishment depends on circumstances and it’s an area where Catholics have a right to debate and disagree.
OBAMA: Now I agree with Mr. Keyes that the death penalty and abortion are separate cases. It’s unfortunate that with the death penalty Mr. Keyes respects that people may have a different point of view but with the issue of abortion he has labeled people everything as terrorists to slaveholders to being consistent with Nazism for holding an opposing point of view. That kind of rhetoric is not helpful in resolving a deeply emotional subject.
The Ronald Reagan Biomedical Research Act specifically permits embryonic stem cell research in Illinois. Today, more than 100 million Americans are afflicted by medical problems [which could be affected by this research]. Obama says, “This bill affects diseases that attack Americans - regardless of their gender, age, economic status, ethnicity, race or political affiliation. This is about a commitment to medical research, under strict federal guidelines. I call on leaders in Illinois and President Bush in Washington to stop playing politics on this critical issue and expand the current policy on embryonic stem cell research so that we can begin finding the cures of tomorrow today.”
In the Illinois legislature, Obama blocked the proposed Born Alive Infant Protection Act, a bill to protect infants who survive abortion. He promised supporters he would sign a "Freedom of Choice Act" to repeal all legislated restrictions on abortion, state and federal. Taking office, he opened the door to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and , by executive order, repealed the Reagan-Bush prohibition against using tax dollars to fund agencies broad that perform abortions.
OBAMA: If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that’s because it’s not true. There was a bill that said you have to provide lifesaving treatment. 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. With respect to partial-birth abortion, I am completely supportive of a ban on late-term abortions, as long as there’s an exception for the mother’s health and life, and this bill did not contain that exception
In 1997, Obama voted against SB 230, which would have turned doctors into felons by banning so-called partial-birth abortion, & against a 2000 bill banning state funding. Although these bills included an exception to save the life of the mother, they didn’t include anything about abortions necessary to protect the health of the mother. The legislation defined a fetus as a person, & could have criminalized virtually all abortion.
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. ALLARD: This amendment will codify the current unborn child rule by amending the SCHIP reauthorization reserve fund. This amendment will clarify in statute that the term "child" includes the period from conception to birth. This is a pro-life vote.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. FEINSTEIN: We already clarified SCHIP law that a pregnant woman's coverage under SCHIP law is optional. We made it obligatory so every pregnant woman has the advantage of medical insurance. This amendment undoes that. It takes it away from the woman and gives it to the fetus. Now, if a pregnant woman is in an accident, loses the child, she does not get coverage, the child gets coverage. We already solved the problem. If you cover the pregnant woman, you cover her fetus. What Senator Allard does is remove the coverage from the pregnant woman and cover the fetus.LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 46-52
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. ENSIGN: This amendment enables enforcing the Child Custody Protection Act, which passed the Senate in a bipartisan fashion by a vote of 65 to 34. Too many times we enact laws, and we do not fund them. This is going to set up funding so the law that says we are going to protect young children from being taken across State lines to have a surgical abortion--we are going to make sure those people are protected. OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. BOXER: We already voted for $50 million to enhance the enforcement of child protective laws. If Sen. Ensign's bill becomes law, then that money is already there to be used for such a program. LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 49-49 (1/2 required, or 50 votes; Sen. Byrd & Sen. McCain absent)
Proponents support voting YES because:
Since 2 years ago, the last Stem Cell bill, public support has surged for stem cells. Research is proceeding unfettered and, in some cases, without ethical standards in other countries. And even when these countries have ethical standards, our failures are allowing them to gain the scientific edge over the US. Some suggest that it is Congress' role to tell researchers what kinds of cells to use. I suggest we are not the arbiters of research. Instead, we should foster all of these methods, and we should adequately fund and have ethical oversight over all ethical stem cell research.
Opponents support voting NO because:
A good deal has changed in the world of science. Amniotic fluid stem cells are now available to open a broad new area of research. I think the American people would welcome us having a hearing to understand more about this promising new area of science. As it stands today, we will simply have to debate the bill on the merits of information that is well over 2 years old, and I think that is unfortunate.
The recent findings of the pluripotent epithelial cells demonstrates how quickly the world has changed. Wouldn't it be nice to have the researcher before our committee and be able to ask those questions so we may make the best possible judgment for the American people?
Status: Vetoed by Pres. Bush Bill passed, 63-34
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
This bill deals with how young girls are being secretly taken across State lines for the purpose of abortion, without the consent of their parents or even the knowledge of their parents, in violation of the laws of the State in which they live. 45 states have enacted some sort of parental consent laws or parental notification law. By simply secreting a child across State lines, one can frustrate the State legislature's rules. It is subverting and defeating valid, constitutionally approved rights parents have.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Some States have parental consent laws, some don't. In my particular State, it has been voted down because my people feel that if you ask them, "Do they want their kids to come to their parents?", absolutely. But if you ask them, "Should you force them to do so, even in circumstances where there could be trouble that comes from that?", they say no.
This bill emanates from a desire that our children come to us when we have family matters, when our children are in trouble, that they not be fearful, that they not be afraid that they disappoint us, that they be open with us and loving toward us, and we toward them. This is what we want to have happen. The question is: Can Big Brother Federal Government force this on our families? That is where we will differ.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Amends Medicaid to:
EXCERPTS OF BILL:
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Finance; never came to a vote.
OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2006 NRLC scores as follows:
The ultimate goal of the National Right to Life Committee is to restore legal protection to innocent human life. The primary interest of the National Right to Life Committee and its members has been the abortion controversy; however, it is also concerned with related matters of medical ethics which relate to the right to life issues of euthanasia and infanticide. The Committee does not have a position on issues such as contraception, sex education, capital punishment, and national defense. The National Right to Life Committee was founded in 1973 in response to the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, legalizing the practice of human abortion in all 50 states, throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy.
The NRLC has been instrumental in achieving a number of legislative reforms at the national level, including a ban on non-therapeutic experimentation of unborn and newborn babies, a federal conscience clause guaranteeing medical personnel the right to refuse to participate in abortion procedures, and various amendments to appropriations bills which prohibit (or limit) the use of federal funds to subsidize or promote abortions in the United States and overseas.
In addition to maintaining a lobbying presence at the federal level, NRLC serves as a clearinghouse of information for its state affiliates and local chapters, its individual members, the press, and the public.
A bill to expand access to preventive health care services that help reduce unintended pregnancy, reduce abortions, and improve access to women's health care. The Congress finds as follows:
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Third Party Candidates:
Mayor Rocky Anderson(J)