Tuesday, January 25, 2011

President Obama on abortion: No argument, just rhetoric

President Barack Obama released the following statement on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion on demand nationwide:
Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women's health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.
The president's talk about legal abortion protecting "women's health and reproductive freedom," ensuring privacy, etc., is plausible only given the assumption that abortion does not unjustly take the life of a valuable human being. But it is that assumption that he must defend if he wishes to give us any rationale whatsoever for his view. To my knowledge he has never given such a rationale, instead relying only on intellectually superficial, question-begging rhetoric that avoids the real issue.

Prof. Robert George responds:
It is hard to say what was worst about President Obama's statement on the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Was it his silence on the plight of the tiny victim whose limbs are torn off, or whose skin is burned off, or the base of whose skull is pierced and whose brain is suctioned out, with the precise objective of ending his or her life? Was it his reliance on tired (and increasingly futile) euphemisms such as "reproductive choice" to shuffle the victim out of view? Was it his glaring unwillingness even to say the word "abortion" — a word not mentioned at all in his encomium to the Supreme Court decision that manufactured a constitutional right to it? Or was it — taking these things all together — President Obama's betrayal of his own call, at Notre Dame, for "open hearts, open minds, and fair-minded words" in the debate about abortion?
Dr. Albert Mohler writes that Obama's statement is
remarkable, even for presidents who support legalized abortion. ...

There was not one expression of abortion as a national tragedy, even as a report recently indicated that almost 60 percent of all pregnancies among African American women in New York City end in abortion.

How can any President of the United States fail to address this unspeakable tragedy? There was no hope expressed that abortion would be rare, only the expression that he would remain "committed to protecting this constitutional right." ... [N]o goal of reducing abortion was stated or even obliquely suggested. No reference at all was made of the unborn child. There was no lament — not even a throwaway line that would cost him nothing in terms of his support from abortion rights forces.

These words were not imposed upon this President. This is his own personal statement. It is one of the most revealing — and tragic — statements made by any political figure in our times.