Wednesday, February 6

:: More on Obama and Abortion

Where does Obama stand on bans of certain abortion procedures?

I am still hot on the trail of actual proof that Obama is fully pro-choice.

This is an important question. Feminists should not be asked, by the Obama campaign or by other feminists, to take on faith the Senator's support for our core issues. There are currently 16 Democratic Senators who are not 100% pro-choice; one is almost entirely anti-choice (Ben Nelson of Nebraska). On the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Congressional Scorecard, Obama is rated 100%, but he has not been in the Senate long enough to vote on 7 of the 14 issues they track. And we all know about the non-votes he made in Illinois.

Regarding bans on certain abortion procedures, check out this statement by Obama, made in answer to a question about "partial birth" abortion shortly before the Iowa caucuses.

"I think there is a large agreement, for example, that late-term abortions are really problematic and there should be a regulation. And it should only happen in terms of the mother's life or severe health consequences, so I think there is broad agreement on these issues."

His use of the phrase "severe health consequences" raises the questions of what he thinks of as "severe" and how the government is supposed to go about defining it. Is it a Congressional matter, or something to be taken up state by state? What if the definition of "severe" changes with the elected officials from year to year - how will doctors stay on the right side of the law?

How will we deal with the consequences - doctors who err on the side of caution and refuse to help women even though their physical or mental health will be compromised? Do we want elected officials or doctors telling us that no, you can't have an abortion because carrying to term will only give you high blood pressure, but not necessarily cause a stroke? There are already cases like this in Europe and Latin America; in Poland, for example, a woman was refused permission for an abortion even though carrying to term would render her blind. She did carry to term, and she did go blind as a result. Being blind was not considered to be a "severe" enough consequence; the woman, her husband and her several children disagree.

Beyond this, as a matter of law and of medicine, what is the relevance of there being "large" or "broad" agreement on this issue? Individual rights are protected by the Constitution, not by popularity contests. Medical decisions are determined, ideally, by the person directly involved and the medical professionals of her or his choice. Whether or not a hundred thousand people approve of the decision should not enter into the matter.

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