When looking through Obama’s website in order to gauge where he stands on reproductive rights, I became very upset when I literally couldn’t find any mention of abortion or scientifically based sex-ed. Not in his section on healthcare, not in his section on poverty, not in his section on education, nowhere.
I eventually stumbled on his written stance when I accidentally downloaded his blueprint for change. It’s on page 40 (of 60) in size 10 font:
“Obama has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving a women’s right to
choose under Roe v. Wade a priority as president. Obama also supports expanded access to contraception,
health information and preventive services to reduce unintended pregnancies.
Obama will make safeguarding women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority. He opposes any constitutional
amendment to overturn that decision.
Obama will work to reduce unintended pregnancy by guaranteeing equity in contraceptive coverage, providing
sex education, and offering rape victims accurate information about emergency contraception.”
While he doesn’t mention science, what he does explicitly mention in the easily accessible “Issues” section of his website is faith, clergy, evangelical values, the names of Evangelical Ministers who are anti-abortion (he mentions Rick Warren and TD Jakes in the context of their work against AID s in Africa, which it should be noted is largely about abstinence only education a la Reagan’s gag law) and of course, hope and change.
During the 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC Apr 26, 2007 he was asked about “Partial-Birth” abortion, and I found his response a little troubling:
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.
Well, thank you Obama for TRUSTING us to make a decision in conjunction with our family, our doctor and our CLERGY. Below is a transcript from a debate in Iowa listed on the NYTimes. While his response is generally supportive of a woman’s right to make decisions (I suppose like above, as long as they do it in conjunction with…), it is again couched in terms of morality while skirting the issue of mandating schools to teach scientifically based sex-ed, primarily noting that it is the responsibility of the parents. (Hillary states that BOTH scientifically based sex-ed and parents at home are critical to reducing unintended pregnancy and notes she will expand access to birth control http://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/women/).
“The issue of abortion, I don’t think, has gone away. People think about it a lot… I think that the American people struggle with two principles: There’s the principle that a fetus is not just an appendage, it’s potential life. I think people recognize that there’s a moral element to that. They also believe that women should have some control over their bodies and themselves and there is a privacy element to making those decisions.
“I don’t think people take the issue lightly. A lot of people have arrived in the view that I’ve arrived at, which is that there is a moral implication to these issues, but that the women involved are in the best position to make that determination. And I don’t think they make it lightly. I don’t think they make it callously…
“Now, this is one of those areas – again, I think it’s important to be honest – where I don’t think you’re ever going to get a complete agreement on this issue. If you believe that life begins at conception, then I can’t change your mind. I think there is a large agreement, for example, that late-term abortions are really problematic and there should be a regulation. And it should only happen in terms of the mother’s life or severe health consequences, so I think there is broad agreement on these issues.
“One area where I think we should have significant agreement is on the idea of reducing unwanted pregnancies because if we can reduce unwanted pregnancies, then it’s much less likely that people resort to abortion. The way to do that is to encourage young people and older people, people of child-bearing years, to act responsibly. Part of acting responsibly – I’ve got two daughters – part of my job as a parent is to communicate to them that sex isn’t casual and that it’s something that they should really think about and not think is just a game.
“I’m all for education for our young people, encouraging abstinence until marriage, but I also believe that young people do things regardless of what their parents tell them to do and I don’t want my daughters ending up in really difficult situations because I didn’t communicate to them, how to protect themselves if they make a mistake. I think we’ve got to have that kind of comprehensive view that says family planning and education for our young people and so forth – to prevent teen pregnancies, to prevent the kinds of situations that lead to women having to struggle with these difficult decisions and we should be supportive of those efforts. That’s an area where there should be some agreement.”
That he refers to abortion as a moral issue which clergy ought to weigh in on, and that his stance on the issue isn’t as readily available on his website as say, where he stands on Faith, makes the issue of his voting “present” instead of “no” on a law which would ban “partial birth abortions” (actually late-term, which he says in the above transcript, need to be regulated.) more significant than if he were in fact an unequivocal supporter of a women’s reproductive rights. I want to point out that the name “partial birth abortion” is itself a creation of The National Right to Life Committee and therefore politically loaded and intentionally ambiguous. Since there is no medical procedure that exists by this name, anti-choice doctors and those in government (like the supreme court) have flexibility in declaring what is and is not partial birth abortion. At issue are also his present votes regarding parent notification laws and laws which prevent infants that survive abortion. Obama declared this a victory for pro-choice legislation, and says his strategy was backed Pro-Choice advocacy groups, however, Bonnie Grabenhofer IL NOW State President disputes this claim:
“Voting present on those bills was a strategy that Ill. NOW did not support. We made it clear at the time that we disagreed with the strategy. We wanted legislatures to take a stand against the awful anti-choice bills being put forth. Voting present does not provide a platform from which to show leadership and say with conviction that we support a woman’s right to choose and these bills are unacceptable”
For you nay sayers, I included the below link because it says that Planned Parenthood supported his decision to vote present, a strange choice given the nuances of the issue and that it was explicitly panned by other pro-choice organizations in the state:
Compared to McCain, Obama I guess at least believes a woman can consult her family, her doctor and her church about whether its a good decision for her, but given that the Supreme Court is tipped in favor of anti-choice legislation (thanks to the Bush administration) it is IMPERATIVE that the next president be a strong and articulate proponent of a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health and reproduction, like Hillary is.
Please look at the two videos about sexism in the media, which presents the tip of the ice burg of how my gender is systematically attacked not just by the mainstream media, but by the “left-leaning” media too. I feel Obama’s stance on Women’s reproductive rights, and the fact that he doesn’t articulate them as civil rights, but rather couches my RIGHT to choose in evasive language with religious undertones is part of this larger problem (you know, the way the church is the model patriarchy and all that jazz), particularly when he patronizingly states that he “trusts” us with a decision best made in conjunction with our family, our doctor and our church.
For Hillary’s clear and articulated stance supporting her statement that women’s rights are human rights, please visit her website: