Jan. 22, 2009
President Obama released his first official statement on abortion as an occupant of the Oval Office today:
On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women's health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose.
While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.
On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere
On first blush, it is nothing new - it follows a pattern in these statements from defenders of Roe v. Wade and its progeny in that it: 1) makes no effort to establish that the Supreme Court was and is properly vested with the power to create and enforce such a "right"; 2) uses the catchphrase "right to choose" without specifying what is being chosen, why there is a right to it, and especially why there is a right to choose something that should not be chosen so often; and 3) links this spurious right with things that most Americans do agree are right and good, particularly equal opportunity for women.
The statement's "equality" language is meant to dress a mean act of destruction with the high fashion of principle. The reality of tension and conflict between men and women at all levels is real and serious, within every venue of life. As to why the ability to abandon the life the two sexes have created to the tender mercies of the abortionist is a guarantor of equality, rather than an abdication of responsibility, the statement does not say. The small body of a child rests lifeless in this struggle between the sexes. It is so sad and unnecessary, as the lives of millions of accomplished men and women who both faced their responsibilities and fulfilled their careers attest. This does not mean the feminist struggle lacks import in the area of reproduction; it surely does. It only means that abortion is not the answer. More likely, it is a major part of a very wrong answer.
Where Mr. Obama's statement is notable is that he repeats the latest of the catchphrases, "the need for abortion," which was offered up in the 2008 Democratic platform. It becomes his phrase in a new way now. For one, it means this issue is not above his pay grade anymore. There is a "need for abortion." If that is so, this practice is in every way distinct from something morally objectionable or inherently wrong. Who would speak of a "need for human trafficking"? A "need for child abuse"? A "need for prostitution"? There are indeed many sorrows in this Vale of Tears that the law, for prudential reasons, does not address. Non-obscene pornography for one, perhaps. But no one but the most radical people speaks of these evils as things for which there is a "need."
President Obama says he wants to reduce the need for abortion. But if it is essential to women's equality, why reduce it? His policies, deferred today for a few hours, weeks, or - we hope - months, will certainly promote and increase the abortion rate. Today's statement says that "we are united in our determination . . . to support women and families in the choices they make" on this issue, irrespective of "our views." Either that is a very presumptive editorial "we" or a very elastic use of the word "support." It probably means public funding for both maternity care and abortion. But most Americans oppose tax funding of abortion. We as a nation are not "united" in this matter, though President Obama may seek to force a new unity upon us with the chains of appropriations law.
The best hope is that this portion of his statement is rhetoric. That he, or other Democrats in Congress who retain some respect for the Hyde Amendment and similar provisions that have kept a wall of conscience between the citizenry and this bloody trade, may yet have a change of heart and allow only those who will death, Planned Parenthood and its friends, to fund death. Common ground so blood-soaked is not a place where men and women can stand together. Virtues die in such soil.