Barack Obama on Abortion

Last Updated : Oct 04, 2012

Summary

President Obama is strongly pro-choice. Although he has stated an aversion to partial birth abortion, his actions indicate that he believes in a concept known as "abortion on demand". This concept means that a woman should be able to obtain an abortion at any time, for any reason, regardless of ability to pay or stage of pregnancy.

Illinois State Senate

In 2001, Illinois Senators introduced legislation to care for children who survived a practice known as "induced abortions," where a surviving baby is left unattended after labor is induced. State Senator Obama opposed this legislation, stating that by defining a "pre-viable" fetus as a person, the legislation was defining rights to that person. He then stated that by extending those protections to a fetus less than 9 months old, the practice would outlaw abortion.

US Senate

While in the US Senate, Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation known as the Freedom of Choice Act. This legislation stated that its purpose was to protect, consistent with Roe v. Wade, a woman's freedom to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy.

There were six votes taken related to abortion while President Obama was in the Senate. In two of those votes, Senator Obama voted against the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act. In a third vote, Senator Obama voted against additional funding for enforcement of the Child Interstate Notification Act. The fourth vote that Senator Obama participated in involved defining a child for the purposes of SCHIP insurance planning. Senator Obama voted against this legislation. In the two remaining votes, Senator Obama cast a "no vote."

2008 Election

During the 2008 election, Senator Obama participated in a number of interviews and debates in which abortion was addressed. In an interview with CBN, Senator Obama stated that abortion was a moral choice, and that that he trusted women to make that choice. At a talk given for Planned Parenthood, Senator Obama stated that one more vacancy on the Supreme Court could lead to a majority on the Supreme Court that was hostile to a woman's right to choose. He asserted that he would not yield on this issue as President.

In early 2007, Senator Obama was asked at a debate if he supported partial-birth or late term abortion. In his response, he did not directly state yes or no but that the specific procedure accounts for less than 1% of the abortions that take place. He stated that the broader issue is whether or not women have the right to make these profoundly difficult decisions and he staed that he trusted them to do it.

In several interviews, Senator Obama was asked about when life begins. In April of 2008, he stated that he had not come to a firm resolution on the matter of when life begins. In August of that year, he stated that the issue was above his pay grade when asked about the matter.

In an interview with megachurch pastor Rick Warren, Senator Obama asserted that while he was pro-choice, that should not be taken as he was pro-abortion.  He stated that women don't make these decisions casually but rather wrestle with these things in profound ways in consultation with their pastors, spouses, or their doctors, or their family member.

Early in the election cycle, Senator Obama was criticized for remarks made in a campaign speech in which he used the wording that his daughters could be "punished with a baby" if they did not follow proper sexual education training.

During the general election, Senator Obama was asked again about his view on partial birth abortion with respect to a states ability to address the issue. He noted that in his view the states could indeed limit the practice.

Actions as President

Days after taking office, President Obama issued a memorandum overturning the "Mexico City Policy." That policy prohibited groups that performed abortions with non US aid funds from receiving any US aid funds. President Obama stated that the ban was too broad and that it undermined voluntary family planning.

On January 22, 2012, the White House issued a press statement noting the 39th anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision. That statement asserts that abortion is a "fundamental constitutional right", and abortion is a private family matter, and that we must ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams. These statements were heavily criticized by pro-life groups as similar to previous remarks in which a baby was seen as punishment.

 

Partial Birth Abortion Debate

In 2001, Illinois State Senator Patrick O'Malley discovered that a procedure was being performed at hospitals in Illinois where labor was induced on a mother for the purposes of an abortion. Children who survived this procedure were taken to another room and left unattended until passing. In response to this practice, he introduced three pieces of legislation dealing with born children:

  • SB1093 said that if a doctor performing an abortion believed there was a likelihood the baby would survive, another physician must be present "to assess the child's viability and provide medical care"
  • SB1094 gave the parents, or a state-appointed guardian, the right to sue to protect the child's rights
  • SB1095 simply said a baby alive after "complete expulsion or extraction from its mother" would be considered a " 'person,' 'human being,' 'child' and 'individual' "

The only member to oppose the legislation in committee and the only member to speak against them was State Senator Barack Obama. The debate that State Senator Obama and State Senator O'Malley had on the Senate floor on March 30, 2001 is shown below:

Although already cited in the references, it should be noted that this article provides analysis of the conversation between Obama and O'Malley.

 

Griswald vs Connecticut

On June 7, 2005 Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor about the 40th anniversary of the Griswald vs Connecticut decision. During the speech, he asserted that access to contraception had allowed women to achieve greater career success.

 

CBN Interview

As part of the 2008 election cycle, Senator Obama was asked about his positions on abortion. He stated that it was a moral choice, and that that he trusted women to make that choice.

 

Overall Pro-Choice Statements

At a talk sponsored by planned parenthood in June of 2008, Senator Obama re-affirmed his pro-choice views and defended his votes against the confirmations of Judge Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.  He states that as President, he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act.  The Freedom of Choice Act would create US law making abortions legal.  In the speech, he also made the following statement.

 

When life begins

On April 13, 2008 at the Democratic Compassion Forum at Messiah College, Senator Obama was asked about when life begins:

On August 16, 2008 Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain debated each other at the church of evangelical preacher Rick Warren.  When asked about when a human or fetus deserves rights or when life begins, Senator Obama said the following:

 

 

Roe vs Wade

In an interview with Pastor Rick Warren, Senator Obama made the following statement on his pro-choice views and Roe vs Wade

During the third Presidential debate, Senator Obama was asked about the possibility of nominating a supreme court justice that would overturn Roe Vs. Wade.

 

Partial Birth Abortion

On April 26, 2007 at the South Carolina Primary Debate, Senator Barack Obama was asked about his views on partial birth abortion.

 

In another President debate, Senator Obama was asked about partial birth abortions and explained his "present" vote on the previous legislation in the same manner - it was unconstitutional as it did not have a clause to exempt mothers whose health was at risk.

 

On April 27, 2008 Senator Barack Obama gave an interview to Fox News where he spoke about the ability of states to limit partial birth abortions.

 

Comments on 2008 Election Website 

 

Punished with a Baby

In March of 2008, Senator Obama was giving a campaign speech in which he addressed sex education and abortion. In discussing that matter, Senator Obama was criticized for using the language that his daughters could be "punished with a baby" if proper sexual education was not provided.

 

The Mexico City Policy

On January 23, 2009 President Obama issued a memorandum overturning the "Mexico City Policy". In that memo, the President described the practice as undermining family planning and stated that the criteria to deny funding was too broad. On January 23, 2009 the Obama administration released a press statement noting both the memo and additional statements on the subject.

  

Roe vs Wade Anniversary Statement

On January 22, 2012, the White House issued a press statement noting the 39th anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision. That statement asserts that abortion is a fundamental constitutional right, and abortion is a private family matter, and that we must ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams. 

 

Voting Record

Amendment - SCHIP and unborn children

On March 14, 2008 the Senate attempted to pass an amendment to the congressional budget for 2008. The amendment was to clarify the definition of a child for SCHIP purposes. SCHIP is the State Children\'s Health Insurance Program. The program covers children up to the age of 18 with health care. Although the program is funded by the federal government, implementation of the program is left up to the states. Many states provide health care to pregnant women above the age of 18, but justify the care as necessary for the health of the unborn child. This amendment sought to clarify such legislation by establishing a sets of codes for when such care can be given by the states. It is an attempt to put into writing when the pregnancy is considered a "child" and therefore enters into the realm of abortion as designating an embryo as a child for the purposes of giving it care under SCHIP would also imply that an abortion at or later than that time would amount to the killing of a child, and not an undefined mass of cells. The amendment failed to pass with most Republicans supporting it and most Democrats opposing it in roll call 81. Those supporting the bill can be seen as attempting to establish when the definition of a "child" can be given to a developing fetus. Barack Obama voted against the amendment to define a child for SCHIP purposes.

Barack Obama voted against the amendment to define a child for SCHIP purposes.

Amendment - Funding for enforcement

Congress has passed laws which prohibit an adult from taking a minor across state lines when the state laws require parental consent for an abortion. On March 13, 2008 the Senate voted on an amendment for funding of "vigorous enforcement" of the law. The amendment got the support of most Republicans and the opposition of most Democrats. If failed in a 49-49 vote. Barack Obama voted against the amendment to provide funding to enforce abortion laws.

Barack Obama voted against the amendment to provide funding to enforce abortion laws.

Amendment to Prohibit Funds

In October of 2007, the Senate voted on an amendment to prohibit funds from being dispersed to groups that encourage or perform abortions. The measure failed to pass the Senate 41-52. Barack Obama cast a "No Vote"

Amendment - funds to abortion providers

Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas placed an amendment into the Consolidated Appropriations spending bill to ensure that funding did not go to groups that may support coercive abortion. The amendment failed in a 48-45 vote. Barack Obama cast a "No Vote"

Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act

The second vote on the legislation came as the bill returned from the US House. In roll call 263, supporters of the bill failed to get the 60 votes required for cloture. The bill did not proceed further as most Republicans supported the legislation and most Democrats oppossed it. Barack Obama oppossed the Notification Act by voting against cloture.

Barack Obama oppossed the Notification Act by voting against cloture.

Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act

There have been 2 votes in the Senate concerning the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act S 403. The Act prohibited transporting a minor child across a state line to obtain an abortion. There was an exception in the bill if the life of the mother was at risk, and those transporting the minor could not be prosecuted if there was reason to believe that the transporters were under the impression that permission had been given from the minor\'s parents. The first vote on this bill came as the bill passed through the Senate. The bill passed the senate in a 54-34 vote with most Republicans supporting it, and about 1/3 of Democrats supporting it. Barack Obama voted against the Notification Act.

Barack Obama voted against the Notification Act.

 

Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation

Session-110; Bill Number-S 1173; Freedom of Choice Act - Cosponsor

A bill to protect, consistent with Roe v. Wade, a woman's freedom to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy, and for other purposes.

Session-110; Bill Number-S 21; Prevention First Act - Title X Family Planning Services Act of 2007 - Cosponsor

A bill to expand access to preventive health care services that help reduce unintended pregnancy, reduce abortions, and improve access to women's health care.

References

[1] Website: Time Article: McCain and Obama on Abortion Author: NANCY GIBBS Accessed on: 06/02/2010

[2] Website: The Washington Times Article: JEFFREY: Debate in Obama's past Author: NA Accessed on: 11/23/2010

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