Changes you should believe in

It takes some searching to find Barack Obama’s position on abortion on his Web site. “Abortion” is not one of the 26 “issues” listed there. And although you might expect to find it under the headings “Ethics” or “Families,” if you look there you’ll be disappointed.

It’s only under the issue of “Women” that one can find this brief comment:

“Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President.”

The first sentence is window-dressing: of course the issue is divisive, and to respect one’s opponents is a basic requirement of civility.

The next sentence expresses the essence of it. Obama is a “consistent champion” of abortion-on-demand: “consistent,” that is, this is a settled conviction for him; “champion,” because he defends it unapologetically as something good.

And when it says that as president he will make preserving these rights a “priority,” this means he intends to appoint only Supreme Court justices who fully support Roe v. Wade.

If you doubt this interpretation, consider a speech that Obama gave last year to Planned Parenthood: “I’ve stood up for the freedom of choice in the United States Senate,” he said, “and I stand by my votes against the confirmation of Judge Roberts and Samuel Alito ...”

He compared the strength of his own conviction to Planned Parenthood’s: “On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield.”

“With one more vacancy on the Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a woman’s fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe v. Wade and that is what is at stake in this election.” But, he said, “This election is not just about playing defense, it’s also about playing offense.”

Let’s be clear: Obama’s goal is to appoint justices who will rule in such a way as to insure that Roe v. Wade will never be reversed.

And when he speaks of “going on the offensive,” he means that he wants not simply to preserve Roe but also to lock it in and expand its significance.

In that same speech, Obama explained exactly why he has been a “consistent champion” of abortion; abortion-on-demand is the way that women have triumphed in the “struggle for equality.” Women cannot be equal to men, he believes, unless they have the ability to abort their children: “I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law, not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality.”

If abortion-on-demand were ever reversed, his daughters would grow up in a country without equality. Speaking of the right to abortion, Obama said: “I want my daughters to grow up in an America where they have the exact same opportunities as America’s sons. I want Sasha and Melia to dream without limit. To achieve without constraint. To be absolutely free to seek their own happiness.”

I suspect it’s because Obama believes that abortion is essential to women’s equality that you never hear him saying (as does his running mate) that he’s “personally opposed” to abortion. You can’t be personally opposed to something you regard as essential to human equality.

Another part of Obama’s plan to “go on the offensive” on abortion is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA): “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”

The Freedom of Choice Act would roll back every state law that in some way regulates abortion. No states could restrict public funding for abortion. No states could require parents of minor children to be notified when their daughter gets an abortion. No states could prohibit the transport of a minor across state lines for an abortion. No states could require informed consent for abortions.

We might infer that Obama would support efforts to once again legalize partial-birth abortion. Partial-birth abortion is the procedure whereby a living baby is delivered entirely except for the head, and then the abortionist punctures the baby’s skull with forceps and sucks out its brains, so that the baby’s body can be pulled out through the birth canal.

When the Supreme Court last year finally upheld a Federal statute banning this gruesome procedure, Obama quickly issued a statement condemning the court’s decision:

“I strongly disagree with today’s Supreme Court ruling ... I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose, and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a matter of equal rights for women.”

And who knows whether “going on the offensive” for him won’t also mean attempting to overturn the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush in August of 2002, which requires that, if a child survives an abortion, doctors must do their best to save its life. Obama opposed an identical act in Illinois; he never even let it get out of the committee.

But didn’t he once say that a woman who gets pregnant against her intentions shouldn’t be “punished” with a baby?

She has to be absolutely free to seek her own “happiness” -- at the expense of her child.

Michael Pakaluk is a Professor of Philosophy and Director of Integrative Research at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences.