2008 Obama “Clarifies” Abortion Stance
posted by July 7 at 15:24 PMon
In clarifying his remarks [as noted below, Obama told a reporter for a Christian magazine that he supports a ban on abortions after 22 weeks except when the physical health of the woman is threatened, and does not support a “mental distress” exception], Obama said this afternoon that he has “consistently” said health exceptions are required for laws banning or seriously restricting abortion. But he then goes on to try to carve out exceptions to the exceptions, and he ends up suggesting, again, he would support more limits on abortion than the law currently allows.
Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane, Obama said mental health exceptions—which are a real battleground issue in the abortion debate—can be “rigorously” limited to only those women with “serious clinical mental health diseases.” He said mental health exceptions are not intended permit abortions when a woman simply “doesn’t feel good.”
“It is not just a matter of feeling blue,” Obama said.
As noted here, the law governing late-term abortions, which has been upheld by the US Supreme Court, includes an exception for women who would suffer emotional or psychological harm if they were required to bring a pregnancy to term. Only Justices Scalia and Thomas opposed the exemption. Obama’s “serious clinical mental health diseases” criterion goes much further than the Supreme Court, which ruled that “[M]edical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors—physical, emotional , psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well- being of the patient.” That allowance is intended to account not just for serious clinical diseases but for cases such as: A girl who was raped by a relative and couldn’t get to an abortion clinic or didn’t know she was pregnant; a woman whose fetus can’t possibly survive; or a girl who may commit suicide if forced to bring a child to term.
Obama could have clarified his position on abortion in a way that satisfied abortion-rights defenders. (One ardent Obama supporter outlines what she wishes he’d said here). Instead, he “clarified” by tying himself in rhetorical knots, implying that some women seek abortions because they’re “just feeling blue” in the process. I do a lot of things when I’m feeling blue—drinking, crying, and calling my mom come to mind—but I don’t think I’d hoof it to one of the two clinics in the country that still provide (extremely rare) late-term abortions just because I’m having a bad day.
Incidentally, Obama’s belief that a woman “has a right to choose with her doctor, her pastor and her family” also goes well beyond existing case law, as noted here.)