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Not Just About Abortion

George Weigel takes issue with pro-life Catholics who have convinced themselves that Barack Obama is the “preferred pro-life option.” He argues that this is self-delusion of the worst kind:

Because the public record amply demonstrates that Senator Obama is not the abortion moderate of our professors’ imagination, but a genuine abortion radical. In the third presidential debate, Obama described Roev. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that obliterated the abortion law of all fifty states, as “rightly decided”—a judgment with which Professors Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec have all disagreed in the past. Moreover, Senator Obama’s defense of Roe extends far beyond anyone’s “elegant theorizing.” Support for Roe was Obama’s stated reason for opposing Illinois bills aimed at providing legal protection for children who survived an abortion. Support for Roe buttressed Obama’s criticism of a Supreme Court decision upholding state partial-birth abortion laws. The full implementation of the most radical interpretation of Roe would seem to be the goal of Obama’s support for the federal Freedom of Choice Act [FOCA], which, by stripping Catholic doctors of “conscience clause” protections currently in state laws, would put thousands of Catholic physicians in jeopardy.

The issue of abortion hasn’t been much talked about in the campaign, understandably perhaps when we are in a midst of a financial crisis and there are enough national security issues to keep the aide in charge of Joe Biden “clarifications” working 24/7. But the issue is important for two reasons beyond the merits of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. And it should concern even voters for whom this may not be the top issue.

First, it goes to the notion of who Obama “really is.” If you’d like to believe he is a moderate post-partisan. you’ll be impressed by his patronizing words of praise for those who hold pro-life views. But if you want to know what he does when the chips are down and he must act, not just talk, his record on abortion is revealing because it is so clear — and so extreme. Over and over again he took the position that was the most radical and the most absolutist. It is not just a “woman’s right to choose,” but a knee-jerk defense of every item and every whim of a very vocal constituency in the Democratic Party. He never said, “Hey, I’m with you on abortion rights but this is medical care for a child already born.” He never (as his VP did) evidenced support for a ban on the most extreme and gruesome procedure (partial birth abortion). Rather, he excoriated the Supreme Court for upholding the legislative judgment of Congress. Is there any doubt that if given his way he would support full public funding for abortion? Certainly not if his record is any guide.

Second, because his record is so clear, he has had to dodge (“above my pay grade”) and flat-out lie about his record. Does he believe his own re-invention? Has he surpassed Bill Clinton in the ability to lie — and feign ourtrage at those who would point out the lies? It is hard to tell, in part, because he hasn’t been subjected to sustained questioning in the way other candidates are presented with the glaring conflict between words and deeds.

For some voters, abortion remains a determining issue. But it would be a mistake to think of it in isolation. Obama’s voting record and defense of that record provide what much of the political coverage does not — a window into his political outlook and public character. It’s not a pretty picture.


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