Jan Crawford Greenburg, author of an invaluable book on the Supreme Court (Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States) and possibly the best mainstream Supreme Court reporter anywhere, got into Barack Obama’s abortion comments. The entire piece is must-reading, but here is the nub:
[T]here’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. . . Wow. This has been a central battleground issue in the Supreme Court going back 35 years, to Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, when the Court ruled a woman had a constitutional right to abortion. The decisions said state’s can ban all abortions after the fetus is viable — but that any restrictions must include exceptions to protect a woman’s physical and emotional health. In the years since, anti-abortion groups have fought hard against mental health exceptions, arguing that they create giant loopholes that make abortion bans meaningless. Doctors, they argue, can always find a “mental health” exception. But abortion rights groups just as strongly argue the mental health exception is critical to preserving a woman’s right to an abortion—and that the woman and her doctor must be allowed to make those decisions about her health without government interference. . . Obama’s comments that he does not support mental health exceptions in so-called post-viability abortions (after 22 weeks) is squarely at odds with that holding, which remains the law of the land today. So here are some questions for the Obama campaign: Does Obama still support the Freedom of Choice Act? Would he appoint justices like Ginsburg — or like Thomas, Scalia, etc.? Would he direct his Solicitor General to file a brief supporting state abortion bans that did not include a mental health exception?
Now is it possible that Obama, a self-proclaimed constitutional law expert, had no idea what he was saying when he indicated that he disapproved of the mental health exception? I suppose. Or was he once again betting that no one would call him on a glaring instance of intellectual inconsistency? Ah, that’s a workable theory. But if there were ever an issue in which both sides hang on every word and look for winks, nods and body language this is it.
Then comes a “clarification” which is too mind-numbing to summarize. It’s only real distress or depression which should be used to justify late term abortions, is I think what he means. Listen, you either are for or against the legal regime of Roe v. Wade. And if you are against a mental health justification (which is reduced to abortion on demand in the real world) you are against Roe. Obama, in an effort to pander to value voters made a hash of this, and I think has now retreated to his embrace of Roe as inviolate. This is lame for a non-lawyer — it’s embarrassing for a so-called constitutional law guru.