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Finding Common Ground on Abortion Rights?


After weeks of controversy, President Obama gave the commencement speech at Notre Dame today. Anti-abortion activists and many Catholics have objected vociferously to Notre Dame inviting Obama to give this speech and to the university’s decision to award Obama an honorary law degree. So what did our fearless leader have to say about a woman’s right to an abortion? If you guessed, “absolutely nothing,” you are correct.

Here is the relevant passage from today’s speech:

“Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.

So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.”

At least he didn’t spout his usual nonsense about women getting permission from their husbands, doctors, and religious advisors. We don’t yet know what he will do with Bush’s “conscience rules” that allow health care providers and pharmacists to refuse to treat people seeking abortions or birth control, but it appears that the rules will not simply be overturned, as was originally announced. Obama clearly implied that in the Notre Dame speech, and Kathleen Sibelius also indicated as much in her confirmation hearing testimony.

But as Politco noted,

In the speech, Obama…never substantively addressed why he believes a woman has the right to abortion.

Instead, Obama’s speech largely focused on the rhetoric from both sides. Obama made the call for “common ground” three times and said that only comes “when we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe.”

You know, words. Just words.

I don’t think people should be demonized for their beliefs, but can someone tell me how people who oppose abortion can find common ground with those of us who believe that the legal right to an abortion should be respected? Obama’s method for “finding common ground” appears to be to avoid ever addressing the reasons why women need to be able to control their own bodies. Instead he talks about “abortion reduction,” never directly dealing with the crux of the issue–that if women are denied the right to terminated an unwanted pregnancy, they are inherently unequal under the law.

The people who want to deny women’s reproductive rights literally believe that abortion is murder. Someone who believes that cannot compromise. And a woman who wants to be a free human being cannot compromise on this issue either. But the politicians who supposedly represent us have been compromising women’s reproductive rights for decades now. And it doesn’t seem like a good sign to me that neither the President nor his Secretary of Health and Human Services is willing to publicly explain why women need the right to choose an abortion.

To be honest, I never expected Obama to protect a woman’s right to an abortion. But now that he has backpedaled on nearly every promise he made during his primary and general election campaigns, I have zero confidence that he will do so. In fact, I’ll be shocked if he selects a pro-choice candidate for the Supreme Court. It’s stunning when I think back to the fall of 2007 and how hopeful I was for a Democratic President in 2008.

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72 Responses

  1. Conscience clause sends cold shivers down my spine. But once again, Obama rushes in where bush was criticized and completes the job and nobody says one word.

    • Will Obama allow rape victims to be offered the morning after pill? Enquiring minds want to know.

      There was supposed to be a 30 day comment period on the “conscience rules.” The 30 days ended in March.

      • I don’t think there’s any question that rape victims (and everyone else) go under the bus. It’s a way to score cheap pander points, and he feels he doesn’t owe women anything since we proved we’ll hand over our votes wholesale with no demands and no hope of getting any return.

        • It really bothers me that most in the media don’t even bother to talk about women anymore in relation to the abortion issue. The anti-abortion crowd has won, because the issue is only framed in terms of the fetus. Women’s rights, women’s lives are deemed irrelevant and inconsequential.

        • I know, and another thing that bothers me is the adoption issue. They’re so freaking blasé about how traumatic it can be to bear the social stigma of walking around pregnant for 9 months and having everyone you know think you’re heartless for giving up your baby, not to mention the sometimes extreme emotional trauma/guilt of the actual separation. For those who choose adoption, god bless them, but I have a real problem with people saying we should encourage it as if it’s just no big deal at all.

        • Exactly. All they do is talk about how traumatic getting an abortion is. But I have known quite a few people who got abortions and none of them was traumatized. But giving up a baby for adoption? Now that is wrenching. That’s why lots of women change their minds at the last minute.

        • It’s so odd that Obama talks about choosing a candidate for SCOTUS who is empathetic when he’s so clearly lacking that quality himself.

  2. Isn’t the conscience clause the same as “you need your doctor’s permission?”

    • It’s way worse than that. It means you need the permission of everyone, including the cashier who rings up your purchase of birth control pills. It means any one of hundreds of people could prevent you from getting an abortion, birth control, or treatment after being raped.

      • And we’re talking about medicine and medical treatment, for god’s sake! If I work at Newberry Comics and refuse to sell certain things because I have moral objections to them, I’d get fired. But if I deprive people of medicines or treatment they need or want, then I’m a conscience hero.

        • Especially if the people you are depriving are women.

        • That drives my doctor daughter nuts. She had a nurse that refused to witness her putting in an IUD in a woman who was in her late 30s with four kids. The nurse just had to stand there. She says she doesn’t understand why they just don’t go work in different departments if they’ve got issues. After all, it is supposed to be about Women’s Health, not about what some old religous geezer has made up so he can get more paying customers he controls.

        • Exactly. You don’t go work at the munitions plant as a pacifist, don’t become a health care professional if you’re the equivalent of a Christian Scientist. What would your daughter have done if she lived in the country and the nurse was the only person available for miles? It’s compromising care, do something else!!

        • Correction: ONLY if the people you are depriving are women.

  3. From NPR:

    While the incoming president can’t simply wipe out the rules with the stroke of a pen, there is a relatively abbreviated process for taking them off the books. It’s called the Congressional Review Act. And because the Bush administration issued the regulation late in the current president’s term, the new Congress will have 75 legislative days to pass a “motion of disapproval.” All it takes is a simple majority of votes by the House and Senate, and the motion is not subject to delaying tactics in the Senate.

    Congress could have reversed the rule without Obama getting involved. And they chose not to.

    • Wow. Just . . . WOW.

      You think you can’t be any more disappointed in politicians, and then they fall through into a whole new dimension you didn’t even know was there.


  4. He’s a master at sounding like he is all things for all people, huh?

    Grow a spine, Barack!

  5. […] H/T to bostonboomer at The Confluence […]

  6. You know what I want to talk about? I want to talk about the moral and spiritual dimensions of war… and torture.

    This is total BS. And it’s all coming together. All the misogyny and women bashing of the Obama campaign and its minions. Bashing Palin for NOT having an abortion. Bashing her teenage daughter for getting pregnant. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Because their entire thrust is that a woman does not have the brains or moral stamina to make HER OWN F@#%ING CHOICE. Free will and self determination are reserved for members of the boys club. Those of us lacking that mutated mess of a Y chromosome need not apply.

  7. OT, but important:
    The blogstalkers are on the warpath and they claim to be targeting TC


    • Pay no attention to what they say.

      Those vaginaphobic buttmunches wouldn’t know the truth if it kicked them in their strictly-ornamental balls.

      • That would be easier advice to take if I still had a blog and they hadn’t been following me on Twitter.

        • The title of their post has been changed.

        • And 2 comments congratulating the loser/poster for getting your blog suspended were deleted

          Dumbfucks don’t know WordPress has a memory

        • Someone just signed up to follow me?!? What does that mean exactly?

        • It means that they subscribe to your tweets, so instead of having to visit your page to see what you’re saying, everything you tweet gets sent directly to their account and they can read them when they log in. In the case of the blogstalkers, it means they’re headcases with way too much time on their hands. I don’t have a twitter account so not 100% sure but I think maybe you can refuse to allow some people to follow you (you can also set your account to private so no one can just go to your page and read your tweets). I saw a celebrity once tell a fan that she wasn’t going to accept fans as followers, so I think you can refuse followers.

        • Seriously,

          So, they can fallow twitter comments? I lost my password, but haven’t gotten anything, but an e-mail saying someone was following my comments? 😯 I am not all that exiting and rather a bore really, but I do make a mean pot of tea!

        • Yep, somebody’s subscribed to your feed so they get all your comments sent to them the minute you write ’em. 🙂

    • Cinie,

      Have you heard anything from WordPress?

      • Nope, not since 4:30 this morning, BB.

        • I just saw your comment on the other thread. Please keep us posted. We need to find out what the content roolz are. It seems like they would have to provide that kind of info up front. I still think someone must have targeted you with a complaint. It’s s*cks.

    • This just completely sux, really sux. There has to be a way to fight back, cinie. You know Conflucians are standing by, ready to help however possible.

    • What in the world are they whining about now? They really need to get a new hobby. How about reading? That would be a good place to start, plus a tutorial in reading comprehension.

      • Yes We Can thug it up Chicago style. It’s the most hopeful change I’ve ever seen from being able to speak to not. Just when I thought you kids were nasty delusional little punks, you go and restore my faith in humanity. It really was all about the rainbows and unicorns!

  8. Obama acknowledged that “no matter how much we want to fudge it … the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.”


    He is saying there is no common sense approach, he’s saying that cooler heads won’t prevail, he’s saying that he can’t do a gosh darned thing about it, gee golly, it’s not like we’re all human beings together in whatever situation or anything.

    He’s tissue paper in the wind.

    • How does this man manage to lift a fork, I mean what his hands being permanently tied? Must be some kind of weird birth defect.

      • lol! He really should have been a preacher. That was his true calling, at the feet of Rev. Wright. Just stand up, pontificate, and be adored as an instrument of the Lord. Never have to take a stand, just talk, talk, talk.

  9. myiq,

    Check out this buyer’s remorse post.

    What a disaster. Did anyone know it was gonna be this bad?

    For the record; I didn’t vote for Obama because I didn’t like the way he backpedaled on wiretapping and because he promised to escalate the war in Afghanistan. (Like everyone else who voted for Ralph Nader; I got loads of grief for it) But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want Obama to succeed. I did. The country is in too big a mess NOT to hope that he would succeed. But now…?

    Let’s just forget about the fact that Obama never lifted a finger to stop Israel’s two week rampage through Gaza which killed 1,100 unarmed civilians and destroyed much of the critical infrastructure. And let’s give him a pass for equivocating on Iran, Georgia, missile defense in East Europe, Cuba, NAFTA, FISA, torture, war crimes, the Employee free Choice Act (EFCA) and any other issue that’s important to liberals, progressives, leftists or anyone else who eats with a fork or walks on two legs. And let’s excuse Obama for stepping up the air war in Afghanistan even though another 140 Afghan villagers were blown to bits 10 days ago while sitting in their schools, sleeping in their beds or having dinner with their families. (After all, Obama did say he was sorry, didn’t he?)


    Hypocrite? We’d be better off with McCain. At least with McCain you know what you’re getting.

    • Surprise, surprise – even Salon is getting more and more buyer’s remorse confessions. I wrote something fairly long late last night on a Sirota thread concerning Obama turning into such a “riddler” re single payer, asking why in the hell these poor “disillusioned” types decided to support Obama without even bothering to look into his background for themselves. The goods on him were out there to be found, plenty of them. It was just more fun to slice and dice Hillary and all the raycists who stood up for her. Gee. Suz. What flipping maroons.

  10. “draft a sensible conscience clause”

    What does that mean?

    Can someone embed the video of Hillary when she testified recently before Congress, and Rep. Chris Spence (wasn’t that his name?) challenged her about Margaret Sanger? Hillary blasted back with a steely testimony of her principled stance on Choice and her witness to the suffering women experience without it. It was a thing of beauty– absolute passion, strength, and clarity. Nothing like the Ambivalator in Chief. When are people going to tire of this mealy mouthed charade that signifies nothing?

    • In that testimony, she said (paraphrase): “While I respect your right to express your own belief, we have a profound difference of opinion on this, and I will fight equally hard for what I believe.”

      She does not demonize or shut down opposing opinions, but makes it perfectly clear that her position is based on deep experience and knowledge, and that she will fight with a vengeance for what she knows is right. DAMN IT! We could have had a real leader…

  11. Having been exposed, the weenie-waggers at Stupids have grown suddenly shy.

  12. Thank you for writing this, BostonBoomer. It’s one of those posts that rings so true, I can’t quote any particular bit without leaving something equally important out.

    Thank you very much.

  13. “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause”

    I think a sensible conscience clause for them would be to find themselves a different job. Basically, if it entails using a gun on something, I wouldn’t do it so does that mean I’d make a good police officer and they’d let me do that job if my conscience includes not using guns?

    • LOL yeah, you go through training and then it’s like, good luck everybody, can’t do it, keep the checks coming.

    • Now that I think about it, it’s really against my principles to do any work at all, so this whole “conscience clause” thing is going to work out pretty well for me. I’m sorry, I cannot, in good conscience, do anything you’re ever going to ask me to do–can I have a raise?

  14. The conscience clause allows the communication of disapproval through the refusal of treatment / medicine – effectively denying the privacy of the woman.

    It is our right to privacy that gives us the right to have an abortion and then they come up with this crap that is another way to deny privacy for women.

  15. Hopefully these yahoos will meet a female pharmacist who believes that sex is only for procreation and refuses to fill their viagra.

  16. King Solomon spoketh…Now let’s cut that embryo in two…

  17. 0bama wants to find common ground on abortion. Why didn’t we think of that? Isn’t he just fucking brilliant! And just would that be? You can only have an abortion if you are NOT pregnant!
    Yea, that’s the ticket!
    0bama, a man of foolish ideas and stupid words. The great communicator..

  18. Common ground

    What an idiot.

    On one hand you have choice. On the other hand no choice. And the middle ground, I suppose, is like being a little bit pregnant.

  19. There is this interesting post at NOQUARTER about some of Obama’s budget cuts and as usual women and children are the ones that will suffer the most

    Freedom, Prisons, And Human Rights
    President’s Budget Flat Funds Services for Women & Families

    Women living with HIV throughout the U.S. were disappointed at some details of the President’s FY 2010 budget, released late last week. The overall budget calls for a modest increase in funding to fight the growing domestic HIV epidemic,but flat-funds the Ryan White Part D program, the only federal funding stream designated to serve women, children and families living with HIV. The HIV epidemic among women has worsened over the past two and a half decades, with the Centers for Disease control estimating over 300,000 women to be living with HIV in the United States.

    “We commend the Admininstration’s focus on HIV prevention based on sound science — but given recent information by the Kaiser Family Foundation that general public awareness of HIV has decreased over the last few years, underinvestment in HIV programs is impractical and sends a dangerous signal to the public,” commented Naina Khanna, Coordinator of the U.S. Positive Women’s Network, a national membership body of women living with HIV. “And even in these hard economic times, only 5% of Americans believe the U.S. is spending too much on domestic HIV/AIDS. There is broad public support for preventing new infections and keeping people in care.”


  20. Saw this at HV

    New Gallup Poll Press Release Title Misleads Public
    “More Americans Now identify Themselves as “Pro-Life” as the title of their press release on a new poll released 5/15/09 does not tell the whole story. Once again it shows that pollsters do not understand the issue or the implications of how they ask the questions about abortion and personal choice.

    This trend in self-labeling has been growing ever since the fight over the so-called “partial birth abortion.” The anti choice forces scored a major public relations coup with their positioning on that fight and they have continued to build on that victory.

    But self-labeling is not the key in this issue when it comes to any action by government…it only indicates what they say their personal choice might be if confronted with an unintended pregnancy.

    Consistently the public has seen abortion as something they want to see discouraged,and more rare, but they also consistently believe this is a choice that should be left to the woman and her family and not one made by government.

    This position advocating a woman’s right to be the one to choose continues to be held by Republicans as well. When asked the real question on the issue : “Who should decide….” just under 70% of Republicans say the individual should retain that right and with leaners we have seen it go up to 80%. That is in keeping with traditional Republican core values of getting government out of our lives.

    So Gallup poll…go back and ask that question….”Who should decide?”…then come back and give the public the full picture…


  21. He’s after the Catholic vote, and he knows that Catholics, except for the nutters and the hierarchy, are sick to death of hearing about abortion. I couldn’t even go to church for the last 20 years because it seemed like every Sunday and at some funerals we’d have to hear about abortion. So I think that “common ground” business was well targeted. I also agree with the comments above that it does nothing to address the fundamental right to privacy that underlies the legal ability for women to choose what to do with their bodies. For an alleged “constitutional scholar” he is not exactly gleaming with brilliance.

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