Obama for weakening Roe v Wade?: The Swamp
The Swamp
Posted July 5, 2008 2:48 PM
The Swamp

(Editor's note: Sen. clarified his position on the mental-health exception for late-term abortions today; he supports such exceptions. Read this subsequent post for more details.)

by Frank James

Jan Crawford Greenburg, our former Chicago Tribune colleague, now legal correspondent at ABC News, has a very valuable posting on her Legalities blog that should be causing teeth-gnashing over at Sen. 's presidential campaign this weekend.

Jan picked up on an interview Obama did with Relevant Magazine in which the senator from Illinois said he opposed the mental-health exception that allows abortions to be performed in some cases after fetuses become viable.

As Jan writes:

Obama's remarks are printed verbatim in the interview, published yesterday in Relevant Magazine. Read them -- there's no mistaking that Obama says he no longer will support what's long been a cornerstone of the abortion rights debate: The Court's insistence that laws banning abortions after the fetus is viable (now about 22 weeks) contain an exception to allow doctors to perform them if necessary to protect a pregnant woman's mental health.

'I have repeatedly said that I think it's entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don't think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother," Obama said. "I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions."


This has been a central battleground issue in the Supreme Court going back 35 years, to Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, when the Court ruled a woman had a constitutional right to abortion. The decisions said state's can ban all abortions after the fetus is viable -- but that any restrictions must include exceptions to protect a woman's physical and emotional health.

Jan is right to say wow. This is something of a bombshell.

Between presidential candidates Obama and Sen. John McCain, Obama's the one most political observers would expect to protect the legs on the Roe v. Wade stool. McCain's obviously the one most would expect to see with a saw in his hand. But Obama apparently has one too.

What makes Obama's position on the late-term abortion mental-health exception even more head-scratching is reflected in these two additional paragraphs from Jan about proposed abortion legislation called the Freedom of Choice Act:

The Freedom of Choice Act specifically allows abortions after viability where necessary to protect a woman's health, and the legislation refers repeatedly to the guarantees of Roe and Doe, which protect the right to an abortion where necessary for a woman's physical and mental health.

One of its co-sponsors? .

As Jan would say, wow!

Jan and others have noted that Obama sided with conservatives on two notably controversial recent Supreme Court decisions.

He sided with the Supreme Court majority in the Washington D.C. gun-ban case in which the court in a landmark ruling overturned the city's gun-control law. In Kennedy v. Louisiana, in which the high court declared as unconstitutional the death penalty for child rapists, Obama sided with the conservative minority.

While Obama may have arrived at these positions on the merits, the Obama campaign will have to forgive many observers for being skeptical.

Having been dubbed, unfairly or not, the most liberal member of the Senate by National Journal, and winning more delegates for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination than Sen. Hillary Clinton largely because he was left of her on the Iraq War, it was expected that Obama would move to the political center once the primaries were over.

But it appears that he's not just moved to the center but, in some respects, gone past it.

The danger for Obama is that one of his greatest weakness with voters comes from his being relatively new to the national political scene. Many voters don't know very much about him.

Because he appears to be shifting so greatly on so many issues, including how quickly he'd withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq, he may be running the risks of reinforcing voter perceptions that he's too unknown and unpredicatable to entrust the nation's fate to.

And his apparent position on the mental-health exception to late-term abortions is only going to raise questions in the minds of many of the liberal activists who have helped him get this far. Some of the larger questions will be: what does he really believe and is he the person we thought we were voting for in the primaries?

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I will NEVER vote for a black man...period.

I'm not sure why anyone is so surprised about any of this. He's pandering to one conservative hot point at a time - first handguns, now abortions. I'm a liberal, but also resigned to the fact that this is probably what it will take not to have McCain in office...too bad Obama will have to anger his original base to get elected. And too bad it has taken everyone this long to realize that Obama is like every other politician.

At least with McCain, people always know where he stands whether they agree with him or not. But nobody can tell what Obama thinks and will do. Being indecisive will be Obama's downfall.

It's the FIRST thing I've ever read about Obama that makes any sense.

And to Jan Crawford Greenburg I say...WOW!

I thought that Obama was always anti abortion. Why is this a surprise?

Anyone who actually reads the interview can tell that Obama supports the right of a woman to obtain an abortion even after viability of the fetus, provided the health of the woman requires it. Obama is simply making the obvious point that "mental distress" is insufficient grounds for an abortion; otherwise the exception would swallow the rule. Sorry, but there is no story here, as much as some would like to create one.

I don't want my post to be read as for or against abortion. I just want to comment on his comments. In them he's actually belittling emotional health v physical. Yes, that is the implication AS IS in THESE statements. As far as I'm concerned emotional health is as important as physical heath NO matter what we are talking about. His lackadaisically approach when he explains himself in interviews is in league with Bush Jr. No doubt that his campaign will now "clarify" by saying that that's not what he meant. He meant he thinks emotional (and physical) health issues should be considered. The emotional exemption just has to be more serious than "I'm going to freak out when I have this baby." I assume this will be the response anyway given his past fumble clean ups. As to putting any doubts into the left of the left liberal mind. Not really. Sometimes you get the impression that it doesn't matter what he's running on--he's just a state of mind that those who come to ADORE him have created. Most of the time it sounds like those he mass attracts, he attracts based on the faith he will be a better president, and the mass perception of the right being soooo wrong (since no one wastes any time trying to see if they were right). I don't get the impression from them that details matter.

What does anyone expect to find in a bottle of snake oil, champagne?

Obama is/was/will be foursquare for abortion from conception till Peter Singer/George Soros, et al, tell him to stop. He needs the cash...four months of compulisve flip-flpping will be costly.

Obama is most certainly not the most liberal senator. Such nonsense, and nobody really believes that. The National Journal had to cherry pick from his votes to arrive at their desired result. Also, Obama was not to the left of Clinton on the Iraq war. He was on the right, as in correct. Despite what Republicans would like us to believe, the Iraq war isn't a matter of right-left, it's a matter of right-wrong. We were wrong, and stupid, to invade a country that was no threat to us while allowing the perpetrators of 9/11 to escape. The true threats to our national security include Al Qaeda and the fools in our government to allowed them to get away with murder.

Wow MJ, y never for an african american?

So what? To be blunt, I think a lot more abortions should have been performed in the past, given some of the miscreants we deal with as adults. Still, remove rape, incest,and physical health from discussion and what does Roe stand on. "Oh, I slept around or I thought he was 'mr. right' and I got pregnant. Now my career will suffer?" A pregnant female under age 16 is the result of a sex crime, and someone should pay in dollars and years behind bars. A pregant 18-year old or older who doesn't want the child, well ...we all have regrets.

Is Obama trying to imitate President Bush? First the stumbling over words and now this?

Of course he's changed his mind! Now he has to pander to a different constiuency, and that requires backpedaling.

And to the poster who said this is nothing new ... well, you're wrong. It's Saturday, time to change another firmly held belief!

Senator Obama's actions represent nothing more than the quadrennial charade that liberal politicians play with the electorate. They wrap themselves in the flag (notice that Obama has started wearing a flag lapel pin after NEVER wearing one before), talk about traditional values like the sanctity of life (after years of voting for unrestricted abortion, including partial-birth abortions), talk about the valuable role of religion in American life (after years of mocking faith-based initiatives and blocking school vouchers). What I'll never understand about liberal pols is why they don't simply stand up and make their case before the voters, rather than hide their ideology like weasels scurrying down a hole. If liberalism is something to be proud of---for heaven's sake, stand up straight and say so!

Liberals are not anti-abortion, they are pro-choice.

As shown in the article, obama is attempting to garner the conservative vote. Anyone should be able to see the game he is playing. If you don't, WAKE UP!

The man talks out of both sides of his mouth. I can't believe there are so many stupid people in this country who would support this inexperienced loser!

I laugh everytime I see these stories that try to paint Obama as a flip-flopper.

McCain is the very definition of flip-flopper

On tax cuts...

In 2001, McCain voted against Bush's tax cuts, saying "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief." He also voted against additional tax cuts in 2003, later saying that "I just thought it was too tilted to the wealthy, and I still do."
Today, McCain wants to make those tax cuts permanent.

On immigration...

In 2005, McCain supported comprehensive immigration reform, which included a pathway to citizenship.
Now, he claims that "if his original proposal came to a vote on the Senate floor, he would not vote for it."

On abortion and Roe v. Wade...

In 1999, McCain said that he would not support overturning Roe v. Wade "in the short term, or even the long term," because that would "force X number of women in America" to undergo "illegal and dangerous operations."
Today, McCain has campaigned on overturning Roe v. Wade.

On his revisionist history regarding Donald Rumsfeld...

In 2004, McCain refused to call for Rumsfeld's resignation, saying that Bush "can have the team around him that he wants around him." In 2006, retired generals called for Rumseld's resignation, but McCain did not.
Now, while running for president, McCain has claimed that "I’m the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go."

On torture...

McCain has traditionally been against torture, citing his experience as a POW for his decision.
Now, McCain voted last month "against a bill that would require the Central Intelligence Agency to abide by the restrictions on interrogating prisoners outlined in the Army Field Manual."

When McCain started running for President he also started lockstep voting with Bush in the Senate.
2005: 81%
2006: 86%
2007: 95%
2008: 100%

I always find it amazing that liberals who have no problem with killing a full term little baby as it emerges from the birth canal will line up in the cold and rain to protest a lethal injection for a heinous killer who has murdered and raped young girls or boys. If Obama finds "partial birth abortion" -- a sugary term for baby killing -- difficult to stomach, bravo to him.

I think the most important thing to define is what "mental distress" is to Obama and the people who will be making these decisions. The problem with a lot of these abortion debates is that the media coverage is vague and therefore open to vicious debate among emotional hot-heads, who take them and run with them without having all of the information.

Tribune, why don't you wait until you get more information until you post about this stuff?

"I will NEVER vote for a black man...period."

Posted by: MJ | July 5, 2008 3:08 PM
* * * * *
Wow, MJ, the substance of what John-EEE boy has said about you is true. What you just did is categorically exclude all black people from consideration for your vote. Directly implicit in such a statement is that none could have the character, skill-set or wisdom to do the job. That, by itself, is the definition of PREJUDICE.
* * * * *
I may be a conservative, but I will not follow you into that political dark night. MLK was right: we should judge people by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. If I have any disagreement with Barack Obama it is because I think his politics stink (which I do), and not because of his skin color. In fact, if Colin Powell were to run for President, I would vote for him in a heartbeat before I would ever vote for John McCain.

I agree with Richard Friedmans' comment. There seems to me to be no story here. He clearly said "mental distress". Not mental disease. I don't feel this alters his position.

The Repuglicans are finished as a political party. McCain has to be the most incompetent candidate that has ever run for the office.
Imagine being a Republican today and watching the "straight talk express" running off the rails every other day.

First McCain's like Bush, then he's a "maverick" again, then he's Bush's twin again, then it's back to the "maverick" act, then back to theRove/Bush act. I get dizzy just trying to follow McCain.

Obama should win this by 20 points.

The Republicans are already running the 2004 campaign all over again..accusing Obama of being a flip flopper, attacking his strengths while doing the same things themselves (i.e. flip flopping)...

Remember, they think that Obama is "John Kerry with a tan"... If they run a 2004 campaign against Obama, they will surely lose. Look at Hillary! She ran a Rovian campaign against Obama and she lost, too...

I think that the GOP overestimates the effectiveness of Hillary's kitchen sink. Obama didn't even compete for the last month, so she got some good numbers in late. She still lost.

Karl Rove's strategy didn't work in 2006, nor will it work in 2008. Why? Well, for one thing, the country is onto their game... politics has changed. The other thing is that we all know what the strategy is and how to counter it. It's hard for the GOP to win the game when we know exactly the plays they are going to run.

....and having "blinky" as the GOP torch bearer this year isn't helping their cause either:

The latest in a long line of flip flops from the crooked career Cook County politician.

Here we go again with the old stand-by issue, abortion. Obviously, the Republicans want to change the subject, again!! What was it, the staged release of the hostages in Columbia, for Senator " Questionable Conduct " McCain's benefit, political or otherwise!!? Anyway, why are we sticking our noses into the rights of a woman's right to privacy? Are we that desperate, that, on the 4th of July, we have to assault the rights of a woman? Can we get any more hypocritical, not too, Swift-boaters? Get a life and leave others' lives alone, you social and religious dictators !! How very unAmerican, we are getting !! Desperate charges from desperate persons !!

As a Christian, I emotionally do not believe in abortion, but intellectually, I remember the things that happen before abortion was legal. Rove v. Wade was decided 35 years ago. A large number of people do not remember when abortion was illegal. Women without the money to pay doctors that would perform safe abortions received back-alley abortions. Women also used coat hangers and other sharp items to induce abortions.

Republicans Never Delivered Promised Abortion Law Change

Why does anyone think John McCain will make any changes in the abortion law?

As California's governor, Ronald Reagan signed permissive abortion legislation that leads to many abortions. As a presidential candidate, he pledged to seek an anti-abortion constitutional amendment, but never fought hard for one.

George W. Bush flip-flopped from his earlier stance on abortion when he ran for President. Bush has had 7.5 yrs and a Republican controlled Congress until 2006 - Bush did not achieve a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion.

There is a good article written by a doctor that treated the results of bad abortions: Repairing the Damage, Before Roe By Waldo L. Fielding, M.D.


However, not simply coat hangers were used.

Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.

Another method that I did not encounter, but heard about from colleagues in other hospitals, was a soap solution forced through the cervical canal with a syringe. This could cause almost immediate death if a bubble in the solution entered a blood vessel and was transported to the heart.

The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.

It is important to remember that Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed. They have always been done, dating from ancient Greek days.

What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens — and freeing their doctors to treat them as such.

It is way past time to stop making abortion a one-issue decision for choosing a President. It is time to focus on the economy, Iraq war, gas prices, health care—the things that matter to everyone, except the wealthy that want a President that will make them richer.

Senator Obama is an extremist on abortion.

Obama Declares He Doesn't Want His Children "Punished with a Baby"-

Obama's Abortion Bombshell: Unrestricted Abortion Over Wishes of Individual States a Priority for Presidency


No matter what Obama says the media is going to twist it.
Am so tired of their distortions, there does not seem to be any integrity left in the media.
Saw one blog where person said liberals believed in full term abortions. How stupid are they??
I believe in right to choose, but I do not believe in all of these
men and women dying needlessly in Iraq. You right to lifers should consider your approval of that!!

Obama did not co-sponsor this.
Additionally, mental health was not an item for consideration. This proposed bill simply supports Roe -v- Wade. The full title of the bill is: "To prohibit, consistent with Roe v. Wade, the interference by the government with a woman's right to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy, and for other purposes."

My sister-in-law adopted a baby after a friend convinced the mother not to abort it in the seventh month so that she could go out for her school's tennis team. Getting an abortion that late was no problem--she had "mental distress" over not playing tennis.
I don't believe that life begins at conception. A fertilized egg is not a person. But by the third trimester, what you have is far more like a person than it is like a fertilized egg. And abortion, which I have no problem with early on, should be the women's decision until the last trimester, but after that it should be available only if it is an exceptional risk to the mother's PHYSICAL health.

Obama is nothing but the typical politican and he is not going to change washington cause he is washington. He changes as the wind blows. He has a nice wife, beautiful kids but that no reason to put him in office, and this is coming from a 33 year old african american college educated female. I really wish Hillary had of won she probably would have debated John by now and let her postions be known instead of trying to run from town hall meetings and debates like obama, who rather just give another speech.

There’s one thing that I agree with Rev Wright on: Obama says what he says because he is a politician.

The other way to not have a Republican in office, is to support HIllary.

The real vote for the nomination haoppens at the Democratic convention August 25. It would only take 175 of the 4,000 delegates switching back to HIllary, to make her the nominee.

HIllary is sound on abortion and other choice issues. We know her record. She does not need to pander to rightwingers as she has so much other support, from real Democrats.

There is a big grassroots movement to nominate HIllary in August. See my website among others.

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