Obama and abortion: The truth lies in his recordCOLLEEN CARROLL CAMPBELL
Among Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's many political talents is his ability to recalibrate his message to the tastes of different audiences.
This gift for niche-messaging sometimes gets him into trouble -- just ask those God-fearing, gun-clinging, small-town folks in Pennsylvania -- but it also allows Obama to position himself as a candidate who transcends divisions despite a rigidly partisan record.
Nowhere is Obama's skill at squaring contradictions more evident than on abortion. It is the rare presidential candidate who is adept enough at spinning his abortion record to win a historic endorsement from Planned Parenthood and earn a perfect voting score from NARAL Pro-Choice America, while also inspiring supporters to build websites proclaiming him the race's "pro-life" candidate.
Those websites are run by Democratic partisans whose commitment to defending the right to life of the unborn generally ranks far behind their commitment to seeing the electoral map awash in blue. Still, their brashness in defending Obama's pro-life credentials is remarkable. Listening to them, you never would know that Obama supports taxpayer-funded abortions, opposed legislation aimed at protecting babies who survive late-term abortions and has pledged to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would eliminate virtually all federal, state and local restrictions on abortion.
The brashness of Obama's supporters is shared by the candidate himself. Viewers caught a glimpse of Obama's boldness during last week's presidential debate, when he said that he would not use support for Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for his judicial nominees. Yet he repeatedly has indicated otherwise and recently told Glamour magazine that a judge who did not believe in the "right to privacy" as defined in Roe is one whose judicial philosophy he would not embrace.
Obama showed similar audacity when pressed about his refusal to oppose partial-birth abortion, a gruesome procedure denounced by the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as "too close to infanticide" and outlawed by a bipartisan congressional majority. Although Obama never has voted to ban partial-birth abortion or any other late-term abortion procedure, he claimed to be "completely supportive" of doing so, as long as such bans include health exceptions for the mother. Obama did not mention that "health exceptions" are the favorite tool of the abortion lobby for gutting pro-life laws. Such undefined exceptions can be interpreted broadly enough to allow even medically unnecessary procedures such as partial-birth abortion, which involves the extraction of a fetus limb by limb and the suctioning of her brain so she can be delivered dead.
Despite his extreme record, Obama claimed the middle ground. "Nobody's pro-abortion," he said. "I think it's always a tragic situation." That might be news to those who heard Obama trumpet his "decades" of fighting for legalized abortion at last year's Planned Parenthood Action Fund conference. He reminded them that he "put Roe at the center of my lesson plan" when educating law students and that, when it comes to abortion, "This election is not just about defense, it's also about playing offense. . . . On this fundamental issue, I will not yield, and Planned Parenthood will not yield."
So who is the real Obama: The one who considers the question of when a baby gets human rights "above my pay grade" or the one who promises never to relent in his refusal to recognize the rights of the unborn?
The answer can be found in the curious silence of Obama's allies at Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, who seem unruffled by his recent backpedaling on their core issue. Unlike some of Obama's pro-life supporters, they know that the truth about a politician's views lies not in his rhetoric but in his record.
Colleen Carroll Campbell. "Obama and abortion: The truth lies in his record." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (October 23, 2008).
Reprinted with permission of the author, Colleen Carroll Campbell.
Colleen Carroll Campbell is an author, television and radio host and St. Louis-based fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. She is the author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. Colleen Carroll Campbell writes for a wide variety of national publications, speaks to audiences across America, and hosts her own television show, "Faith & Culture," on EWTN, the world's largest religious media network. Her website is here.
Copyright © 2008 Colleen Carroll Campbell
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