Karl Rove homes in on Barack Obama’s recent pronouncement on abortion and does a bit to remind voters of his rather extreme record on abortion. Rove is right on this point: Obama’s latest effort to put a moderate face on his record belies an entire career of drastic stances on abortion rights. On the partial birth abortion ruling, after praising Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s dissent, he declared:
I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose, and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a matter of equal rights for women.
In other words he wants to leave Roe v. Wade untouched, but now has discovered an objection to late term abortions justified by mental distress — a consideration immaterial to the Roe (and the companion case Doe v. Bolton) regime which has taken such nuanced policy considerations entirely out of the hands of elected officials and the voters themselves.
Moreover, when last we looked Obama said he supported the Freedom of Choice Act which would enshrine Roe as a matter of federal statute and presumably invalidate the previous federal partial birth abortion act. And there is no mental distress exception in that one either. And of course his favorite, ideal Justices (Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens) have voted again and again to uphold Roe’s prohibition on state regulation of abortion.
Now there is always a grand pundits’ debate each presidential election year over whether a pro-life or pro-choice candidate has the upper hand. Everyone has their favorite polling data. But what is clear is that Obama apparently senses his previous pronouncements and positions are a bit too extreme. Hence, he tries out a rather meaningless rhetorical flip-flop.
On the other hand, maybe he means it and is prepared to introduce a modified version of the Freedom of Choice Act and to promise to select Supreme Court justices who understand that abortion policy by absolute judicial fiat is a mistake. You think so? Me neither.