Sunday, July 6, 2008

Obama and Abortion

This past Tuesday Relevant Magazine published an interview with Obama. In that interview Obama is asked about his stance on abortion, specifically his stance on third-trimester and so-called partial-birth abortions. Here's how Obama replies:

I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.

Here is one response to Obama's answer in the Relevant Magazine interview, by Jan Crawford Greenberg:

...there's no mistaking that Obama says he no longer will support what's long been a cornerstone of the abortion rights debate: The Court's insistence that laws banning abortions after the fetus is viable (now about 22 weeks) contain an exception to allow doctors to perform them if necessary to protect a pregnant woman's mental health.

Others, in comments throughout the blogosphere, are pointing the finger and saying, "there, you see; he started out left of center and now has not only shifted center, but has blown right past center on his way to the right."

A couple of thoughts. First, the binary opposition of right and left and the impulse or drive to pigeon hole and demand absolute loyalty to one "side" is as much a proclivity of the "left" as it is the "right". On this issue, Obama is not flip-flopping or threatening to take away what is now a woman's "right" to choose an abortion. And he's not opposing the Court's insistence that laws restricting late-term abortions include an exception to protect a woman's mental health. He's simply saying that states can restrict or prohibit late term abortions so long as there is an exception for the health of the mother and that mental distress does not qualify as threatening the health of the mother. Surely there is a distinction between mental "distress" and mental "illness" or "disease" where a pregnancy in the context of the latter, we might imagine, would qualify as threatening the health of the mother. If mental distress was sufficient for ending a pregnancy the exception might have the effect of eliminating the very rule for which it is an exception.

The problem, of course, is that nuance and distinction are not the stuff of mainstream america or the media that creates it. Ms. Crawford is a part of the media that creates mainstream american culture. I fear that she, and those like her, are once again making political mountains out of moral mole hills.

In any case, I suspect there are increasing numbers of people who are tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of demanding that everyone who champions life agree with them on every aspect of every issue. And let's be honest. Roe v. Wade did not create abortions. Abortions existed LOOOOOONG before Roe v. Wade. On one plausible reading, what Roe v. Wade made legal was the performing of abortions by trained medical doctors. It essentially said to women, "as full and equal citizens, you deserve better; you have a right to an abortion that is safe."



Maria said...

I have always been skeptical of the ability of political or legal solutions to reduce the number of abortions. Banning abortion legally by itself would only result in increasing the number of unsafe ones. Obama's position makes sense to me -- there should be limits on abortion, especially late term ones. The dogmatism of both the left and the right doesn't help anyone move forward in a constructive way toward reducing abortions (which I believe most Americans would agree is a worthy goal).

Kevin Corcoran said...


I'm with ya! btw: Love your profile!


Tones said...

There's a clinic near where I live that counsels primarily pregnant teens. They recently acquired a
3-D Ultrasound system. Since the device has been in service, their reported abortion rates have dropped over 80 percent. Maria, you're so right in that the dogmatism of both the left and the right doesn't help anyone move forward in a constructive way toward reducing abortions. Knowledge and truth is the only way to really reduce the numbers. That 3-D ultrasound system delivers truth and knowledge to young women who are considering abortions. When truth is revealed, godly decisions often follow! Google "3D ultrasound" for the most astonishing pictures of God's miracle... it's awesome! And it hammers home the reason why Planned Parenthood despises the device! Thanks for the post Kevin!

Ted M. Gossard said...

I am in agreement here, and found both the post and comments helpful, as well.

It's a shame in our sound bite or short take age, that we evangelical Christians don't take the time to think out everything more, instead of simply voting for whoever supports the overturning of Roe v Wade, period.


david said...

well, while all off this sounds quite pleasant and all I've got to say that none of it sounds very plausible to someone who believes that abortion really is a form of murder (I am purposefully not being as nuanced as I could here for dramatic effect). So, the fact, if it is one, that banning abortions would increase the number of unsafe ones is a bit beside the point (to sound as callous as possible :-). A safe murder aint that much better than an unsafe one and the state has no business in promoting or protecting or allowing or condoning either. So, the real issue, as always, is whether or not abortion is a form of murder (again keeping nuance away). All of the other stuff is it seems to me a red-herring.