Obama on Abortion

Probably the most interesting part of the press conference last night.  Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has an interesting take on it.  Obama remains an ardent pro-abort, but I think he is beginning to realize that while that position may be popular among a majority of his supporters, it is much less so with the country at large.  I daresay all the upcry over Obama Day at Notre Dame is also having an impact upon him.  The Freedom of Choice Act* has tumbled from the “first thing he would sign” at the White House to “not the highest legislative priority”.   The message to the pro-life movement is clear.  Stay active, stay noisy and expose every pro-abort move that this administration makes to the public at large.  Obama is paying attention and he will back down in the face of determined opposition.


25 Responses to Obama on Abortion

  1. Mark DeFrancisis says:

    “Obama is paying attention and he will back down in the face of determined opposition.”

    I agree with this sentiment. But maybe I am just naively hopeful.

  2. Eric Brown says:

    Wow. One thing I really find striking is how the rhetoric — the run down is so consistent each time he talks about it. 1. Abortion has a moral and ethical component. 2. Women don’t make these decisions casually. 3. They are better positioned to decide the morality of the matter. 4. We should seek “common ground” and reduce the number of abortions — in other words, not the debate the issue itself directly.

    Every video, every speech I have ever seen or read, this is the precise ordering and talking points. And the “ums” almost indicate he’s trying to remember his lines.


    Well, I’m glad FOCA is not a legislative priority. I wonder how Emily’s List feels about that.

  3. Tito Edwards says:

    I appreciate President Obama’s pragmatism on the subject. It also helps that he has good command of the English language (I cringed each time ‘W’ spoke) as well as a fluid speaking style.

    Though I disagree with his pro-choice/pro-abortion stance, he can easily identify the (and by name) the strong opposition from the pro-life camp.


    Excellent observation. He clearly is trying to remember his talking points, but it sure does help.

  4. Joe Hargrave says:

    I hate to rain on this parade, I really do, but some of us were pointing out all along that the whole “first thing he would sign” business was nothing but campaign hype, and that it was a little silly to get so worked up about it.

    It’s better to come late to the party than not at all, and I’m obviously not pointing the finger at anyone here since I wasn’t posting here during the campaign. But the plain fact is that Obama has always been willing to have a reasonable discussion about abortion, even if he will, in the end, not be moved to accept the entire pro-life argument.

    Meanwhile some on our side make it seem as if one of the pre-requisites for being considered authentically pro-life is to hold as an article of faith that all pro-choice Americans are intolerant fanatics who cannot be reasoned with and who have no redeeming qualities.

    We can and must oppose abortion on all fronts, but we must also remember that we live in a world where the majority does not totally agree with us.

  5. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Couldn’t disagree more Joe. Obama is a total pro-abort. His idea of a reasonable discussion is abortion being legal forever. If he had the power FOCA would be passed tomorrow. That he hesitates is only because of strong pro-life opposition.

  6. Joe Hargrave says:


    Well Obama has to be lying to someone here, and from everything I’ve seen and heard from him, I think it is more reasonable to conclude that he was feeding hype to the PP crowd than conclude that he is lying to us today. He’s elected now, he doesn’t need to be the politician on the campaign trail anymore.

    For better or worse, I do think that he has a sincere belief in trying to ‘find common ground’. I’ve never seen him fail to acknowledge at least the bare bones argument of the side he disagrees with, and pay them a minimum amount of respect.

    In today’s political world, where the politics section at the bookstore is filled with titles reflecting anger, cynicism, and hatred, where the pundits have nothing but one-sided takes on important issues, I have to say, I appreciate his approach.

  7. daledog says:

    I cringe each time I hear 0bama speak. A lie a minute. Um…Err…um…Fluid speaking style? I never understood this assessment of him. He’s looking for the next word like a drunk fumbling for the light switch. All this with a teleprompter. Feh.

  8. Mark DeFrancisis says:

    Such a winning way of approaching the intelocutor/person with which you must deal, as the key political figure pertaining to so many important issues of human life and dignity…

  9. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Don’t get me wrong Joe. I fully expect Obama to throw the pro-aborts under the bus if it is to his political advantage, in that he will not fight for pro-abortion legislation if he believes that the political backlash will harm him. That is why it is so important for all pro-lifers to assert clearly that there will be a high political price to pay for pro-abortion legislation.

    As for pro-lifers, all we would ever get from Obama would be substanceless bloviating as Dr Frank Page on Obama’s Faith Council has learned:


    Obama is only interest in dialogue with us in hopes of making us toothless in our opposition. He will fail in that hope.

  10. Joe is right. What I find weird about Donald and his link is that they clearly have not listened to Obama speak on this before. They seem to think this is something new. Instead, the parrot the old FOCA line ad nauseam, clearly influenced more by the right’s talking points than what Obama himself says. No, his answer last night is the same answer he gave whenever asked about this through the whole campaign (with its 254 debates…).

    I might be biased (!), but I’m rather partial to this take: http://vox-nova.com/2009/04/30/obama-addresses-abortion/

  11. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Tony, I quote what Obama himself said to Planned Parenthood regarding the Freedom of Choice Act. Horse’s mouth and all that. Since you voted for Obama perhaps it helps get you through the night to assert that he is a moderate on abortion. He is not and to pretend otherwise is to engage in pathetic self-deception. If it is to his political advantage, since he is above all a narcissist, he will betray the pro-abort movement, but only if he is confronted with a strong pro-life movement, and not with “pro-lifers” who will vote for him no matter what he does in regard to abortion.

  12. Joe Hargrave says:

    Why do you assume Obama is a narcissist? Really, what is the foundation for that belief?

    I’ve known real narcissists in life, and Obama is nothing like them.

    It is true that political concerns will check his ambitions on abortion. I think Obama understands political reality, and is willing to accept compromise on the issue.

    Essentially Donald I agree with you that our stand must be strong and unwavering, and that this will have an impact on Obama. I just don’t think it will have the kind of impact that archetypal heroes have on archetypal villains, but rather the kind of impact that concerned and active citizens have on politicians who have a modicum of interest in serving their constituency.

    In other words, not only is there no need to make Obama out to be something worse than what he really is, it may actually be counter-productive. Until he proves himself unwilling or unable to listen and respond, I’m going to continue giving him the benefit of the doubt.

  13. Donald R. McClarey says:

    As to his narcissism Joe, the man wrote two autobiographies, the first when he was thirty-four; he has allowed a bizarre cult of personality to develop among some of his followers; his constant use of the royal “we”; his willingness to throw people he claimed were close personal friends under the bus in order to advance his rise to power; his thin skin to any criticism; his belief that he can charm our enemies through personal diplomacy; his reliance on a teleprompter to get every word of a speech perfect; the Obama “presidential” seal that he used during the campaign. Obama is not the first narcissist we have had for President, Bill Clinton this is your cue, but I think he has the worst case of it.

  14. Donald R. McClarey says:

    From a tactical standpoint on the abortion issue I think it is good that Obama is a narcissist. If he were a true believer above all in the pro-abort cause that would make him a much more effective opponent of the pro-life cause. Narcissists always prize self-preservation, in the case of Obama political self-preservation, and I think that is key in coming up with strategies to counter-act him on abortion.

  15. Mark DeFrancisis says:

    Does the sign on Mr. McClarey’s business shingle read “attorney of law’ or “clinical psychologist”?

    I always thought he was a lawyer.

  16. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Mr. DeFrancisis the law has more narcissists than any other profession I can think of off hand so I have had plenty of time to observe them in action! In regard to Obama I do not think one needs any professional credentials to conclude that he is a narcissist, merely eyes to see and ears to hear.

  17. Joe Hargrave says:


    I don’t buy the narcissist argument. Obama is a self-promoter, yes, but I actually get the sense that he is more insecure than he lets on. That’s the ‘thin skin’ you’re talking about. Narcissists by contrast are immune to criticism.

    Narcissists are almost incapable of simulating what it is like to hold another position or be in the shoes of another person. That’s just not Obama. Obama is able to look at things from other points of view and at least understand the basic principles of his political opponents. Narcissists can only do that with the most excruciating difficulty. Obama does it effortlessly.

    He’s just not a bad guy, and certainly not a narcissist. And, for the record, I don’t think Bush was a bad guy either. When I was a young leftist I hated him like everyone else did on the left, but the older I got the more tiresome all the jokes about his intelligence and speaking abilities became.

  18. Mark DeFrancisis says:

    Mr. McClarey,

    My statement was more a poor attempt at humor than an argument about professionalization as a necessary condition in the discernment of psychological disorders.

  19. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Agreed Mr. DeFrancisis, and I took it in a humorous way. I took 20 hours of psych as an undergrad and remember mice in mazes and Freud in Vienna, or perhaps it was Freud in a maze and mice in Vienna.

    Joe, I sincerely hope you are right and I am wrong.

  20. S.B. says:

    As has been pointed out many times, Obama’s genius is his ability to use such thoughtful and moderate-sounding rhetoric even while his actions tell a completely different story.

  21. Eric Brown says:

    Joe, I agree with you insofar as we’re in agreement — I imagine you are — that dialogue is not at the expense of true progress. One of the immediate tragedies with the horror of abortion is strategy. The gravity and scope of the evil doesn’t lend itself to a timely cultural dialogue, particularly a false one — I’ll clarify this point momentarily. Though, it seems that given the situation, we are obliged to a win-some, lose-some strategy and it requires compromise. But, again, this is hard particularly if the result is generational perpetuation of abortion with the fruit of very slow social and cultural progress on the matter. Again, I’m reiterating so we’re clear, I’m not asserting you’re making this error. I’m just saying it for the sake of clarity.

    It seems to me and this was my reasoning: if the Democratic political machine can win Catholic, even pro-life votes, without any sort of meaningful criticism or opposition, there is no reason for them to change or even rethink their position on legal abortion. Rather, they’ll continue to play “word gymnastics” and say let’s reduce abortions. Now while abortion reduction is a good in the short-term, it cannot be confused as the long-term goal.

    I’m not saying this is your position — you haven’t made it your position — but I’ve encountered too many minds that think we’re going to reach zero abortions through socio-economic means, which is an absurdity. Poland illegalized abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother. They went from six figure abortions to a much smaller, but still unfortunate, 300 abortions in a year. That is such a profound difference.

    In some sense, if you look at Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Catholic Democrats, you get the idea that the pro-life position is solely and only “reducing the need for abortion” and not abolitionist. It’s no more intellectual incoherent than trying to solve the issue of slavery by subsidizing slave-owners so they won’t need slaves and giving contraception to slaves in order to reduce the number of slaves in the country. Now, I know and am fully aware you already agree with this. I just think “dialogue” is such a fine line between relativism and civil debate within a pluralistic society. That’s number one.

    Number two and this is for Don:

    “Don’t get me wrong Joe. I fully expect Obama to throw the pro-aborts under the bus if it is to his political advantage, in that he will not fight for pro-abortion legislation if he believes that the political backlash will harm him. That is why it is so important for all pro-lifers to assert clearly that there will be a high political price to pay for pro-abortion legislation.”

    Well, while I don’t deny this at all, here’s my problem. This mentality lends so much energy and focus toward the “enemy” that when we have a pro-life Congress or Administration, we don’t hold them too the fire in regard to their accomplishments, or lack thereof. This is unequivocally my opinion as a Democrat, so you are free to contradict me, but it seems to me that Republicans really in a lot of ways get a license, or a free pass, to get under the radar of scrutiny.

    If George Bush veteos health care for children it isn’t so much of an outrage. In regard to the wars in the Middle East, we need not even presuppose whether or not they’re just, but rather the management — I think from any perspective — has been far from ideal. So wherever the GOP may be lacking, they have a sort of “immunity” because of the pro-life label.

    It’s clearly more a label than an ethos because I just don’t see evidence for the contrary. If you have nine new Justices that weren’t on the court during Roe, with seven of them being appointed by pro-life Republican presidents (the majority of the pro-choicers appointed under Reagan) with only four of them being pro-life, it’s rather telling.

    I honestly don’t think Catholics should trust a political machine so blindly, let alone think it’s — or its politicians — are our allies. At least, in any sort of complete sense. Now, surely, I don’t think this is your view, but it’s more my concern about a “tendency.”

    Now surely abortion is an issue with very few, if any equals on the moral plane. The whole issue of “non-negotiable” issues is that Catholics cannot disagree on them, remain Catholics, and receive the Eucharist. Now in regard to all other issues, there is room for disagreement among Catholics. However, this (to me) seems to be indicative that these other issues do not regard activity that in and of themselves are objectively evil, therefore, a position on these other issues do not in themselves constitute grounds to bar Catholics from receiving communion.

    In regard to such matters, we aren’t all right (as much as we’d like to be). There isn’t a sudden moral neutrality. We can intellectually disagree, but arguably some position, some consideration is more fully (objectively) in accord with the Gospel, more reasonable, and more rational — it is truthful and most plausible in the context of a situation.

    I’m not sure why there is this sort of relativism that is prevalent because of the issues that call for “prudential analysis”, e.g. abortion is a paramount evil; Catholics can disagree about the war in Iraq and, say, capital punishment. This sort of talk almost paints the latter two issues as “non-issues.” Just in language, it can come across as saying, “Well, that’s not relevant right now. Abortion first.”

    I don’t think it’s entirely a matter of different degree of issues. I can’t recall any talk in the Catholic blogosophere [perhaps I simply overlooked it] about the massive spending increases and “big government” policies of the last eight years in any substantial way.

    So, admittedly, I think there’s a double standard and a bias. I don’t think it’s fair and I’m not sure if it really helps Catholics, of all political perspectives, to find a solution to our moral and social challenges. Rather it sort of puts us in camps and I think that’s what we’re watching play out.

    Just my two cents. Not sure how coherent it is.

  22. Anthony says:

    Well, now that Justice Souter is retiring… I can’t wait to see who Obama thinks will be wonderful black-robed priest of the Constitution.

    Of course, maybe he’ll make a “mistake” just like Bush I did with Souter!

  23. Eric Brown says:

    He’ll use a pro-choice litmus test and say he didn’t.

    Are there any pro-life judicial activists? I’d like to strike a deal…

  24. Elaine Krewer says:

    On the narrow issue of Obama’s alleged “first thing” promise, I have to side with Joe, that it was somewhat overblown by the pro-life side.

    That statement to Planned Parenthood was made in response to a direct question about what he would do to protect abortion rights. I always took his reply to mean that signing FOCA was the “first thing” he would do in relation to abortion — not necessarily a literal promise that it would be the very first bill he would sign after taking the oath of office. His answer, taken in context, did not rule out the possibility that other issues (e.g. the economy) would take precedence over abortion.

    That being said, I do still believe that Obama is the most pro-abortion president since Roe, and if not for the determined and vocal opposition of pro-lifers, he probably would have gladly signed FOCA by now.

    I also partly agree with Joe with regard to Obama’s level of narcissism. Ex-Gov. Blago was and is a textbook example of hard-core narcissism (he too had ambitions of running for president). Obama is not nearly as far gone as he was. However, just about any successful politician is narcissistic to some extent.

  25. Joe Hargrave says:


    Here’s the thing. Ideally, I would love for the US to do what Poland did, and just ban it, no ifs, ands, or buts. On say, 95% of issues, I’m more than willing to follow our Constitutional procedures. When it comes to protecting the right to life, however, my first preference would be an outright ban with or without the approval of individual states. This is a philosophical question, an ontological question, that cannot be decided by a majority vote.

    But that just isn’t going to happen. No president will do it, no Congress will do it. Thanks to the Blackmum court, we are now in a situation where we have no choice, ironic as it may seem, but to be politically pro-choice while being philosophically pro-life.

    What do I mean by that? I mean even the states rights, overturn Roe v Wade approach is ultimately a pro-choice position, no matter how anyone tries to spin it. You can say that you’ll vote pro-life when the time comes to decide whether abortion should be legal or illegal on a state to state basis. And that’s great! It’s certainly what I will do.

    But we’re still forced to accept that the ontological status of a human being can be decided by majority vote, if we’re going to stay within the confines of the political system. That is, in its essence, pro-choice, even if we personally choose pro-life.

    When presented with this undeniable logic a lot of ‘states rights’ pro-lifers admit that their position is a pragmatic one, and they think it is the best one. That’s fine. But the pro-life Obama voters also have a pragmatic approach – to reduce abortion through economic policy. There’s little if any moral difference between these positions, but the illusion is that there is a great difference.

    I think we should do the following: a) continue to work on overturning Roe, b) continue to work on reducing abortion through economic policy, c) continue what I see as the more valuable and effective work of building the culture of life, and d) strive for pro-life unity and recognize that both the anti-Roe and abortion reduction pro-lifers are pragmatists doing their best within the political system and the prevailing culture of death.

    I hope that makes sense.

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