In a recent interview with Relevant magazine (HT: Collin Hansen), a for-profit media group run by twentysomething Christians, Senator Obama sought to clarify his position on late-term abortion, noting:
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. 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.
Obama also responded to the widespread concern on his “No” vote on the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act, or BAIPA:
There was a bill that came up in Illinois that was called the “Born Alive” bill that purported to require life-saving treatment to such infants. And I did vote against that bill. The reason was that there was already a law in place in Illinois that said that you always have to supply life-saving treatment to any infant under any circumstances, and this bill actually was designed to overturn Roe v. Wade, so I didn’t think it was going to pass constitutional muster.
Something smelled fishy. Now, Yuval Levin has responded, commenting on the first quote above:
This view would put Obama to the right of Supreme Court jurisprudence on abortion reaching back to the Doe v. Bolton decision that accompanied Roe, and in direct conflict with all the justices he says he admires and with the reigning orthodoxy of the pro-choice movement—including the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, of which Obama is a co-sponsor and which he told a Planned Parenthood audience last July he would make a top priority as president (here’s a transcript and a video, Obama says “the first thing I’d do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”)
After this startling reversal drew some attention over the weekend, Obama offered this clarification to a group of reporters:
Reporter: You said that mental distress shouldn’t be a reason for late-term abortion?
Obama: My only point is this — historically I have been a strong believer in a women’s right to choose with her doctor, her pastor and her family. And it is ..I have consistently been saying that you have to have a health exception on many significant restrictions or bans on abortions including late-term abortions. In the past there has been some fear on the part of people who, not only people who are anti-abortion, but people who may be in the middle, that that means that if a woman just doesn’t feel good then that is an exception. That’s never been the case. I don’t think that is how it has been interpreted. My only point is that in an area like partial-birth abortion having a mental, having a health exception can be defined rigorously. It can be defined through physical health, it can be defined by serious clinical mental-health diseases. It is not just a matter of feeling blue. I don’t think that’s how pro-choice folks have interpreted it. I don’t think that’s how the courts have interpreted it and I think that’s important to emphasize and understand.
Levin aptly concludes:
Clear as mud. Even after this second go, Obama is still clearly at odds with where he was during the primaries and before, with the bill he has championed, with the pro-choice groups who have endorsed him, and with the Supreme Court justices he has said would be his model for future appointments.