Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of president of the United States.
Yet, there are Catholics who aggressively promote Obama’s candidacy and even declare him the preferred candidate from the pro-life point of view.
This is a spectacular error of judgment.
Sen. Obama would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest. The abortion industry laments that this longstanding federal law, according to the pro-abortion group NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League), “forces about half the women who would otherwise have abortions to carry unintended pregnancies to term and bear children against their wishes instead.” In other words, a whole lot of people who are alive today would have been exterminated in utero were it not for the Hyde Amendment. Obama has promised to reverse the situation so that abortions that the industry complains are not happening (because the federal government is not subsidizing them) would happen.
But this barely scratches the surface of Obama’s extremism. He has promised that “the first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act” (known as FOCA). This proposed legislation would create a federally guaranteed “fundamental right” to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including, as Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has noted in a statement condemning the proposed act, “a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined ‘health’ reasons.” In essence, FOCA would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors, state and federal funding restrictions on abortion, and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry — protections against being forced to participate in the practice of abortion or else lose their jobs. The pro-abortion National Organization for Women has proclaimed with approval that FOCA would “sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies.”
It gets worse. Obama opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions when he served in the Illinois Legislature and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice. He has referred to a baby conceived inadvertently by a young woman as a “punishment” that she should not endure. He has stated that women’s equality requires access to abortion on demand. Appallingly, he wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need.
But it gets even worse. Sen. Obama has not endorsed or offered support for the Pregnant Women Support Act, the signature bill of Democrats for Life, meant to reduce abortions by providing assistance for women facing crisis pregnancies. In fact, Obama has opposed key provisions of the act, including providing coverage of unborn children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and informed consent for women about the effects of abortion and the gestational age of their children. This legislation would not make a single abortion illegal. It simply seeks to make it easier for pregnant women to make the choice not to abort their babies. Even ultra-liberal Sen. Edward Kennedy voted to include coverage of unborn children in SCHIP. But Barack Obama opposed it.
It gets worse yet. In an act of breathtaking injustice which the Obama campaign lied about until critics produced documentary proof of what he had done, as an Illinois state senator Obama opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist’s unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability. This legislation would not have banned any abortions. Indeed, it included a specific provision ensuring that it did not affect abortion laws. (This is one of the points Obama and his campaign lied about until they were caught.) The federal version of the bill passed unanimously in the United States Senate. But Barack Obama opposed it and worked to defeat it. For him, a child marked for abortion gets no protection — even ordinary medical or comfort care — even if she is born alive and entirely separated from her mother. So Obama has favored protecting what is literally a form of infanticide.
You may be thinking, it can’t get worse. But it does.
For several years, Americans have been debating the use for biomedical research of embryos produced by in vitro fertilization (originally for reproductive purposes) but now left in a frozen condition in cryopreservation units. President Bush has restricted the use of federal funds for stem-cell research of the type that makes use of these embryos and destroys them in the process. I support the President’s restriction, but some legislators with excellent pro-life records, including John McCain, argue that the use of federal money should be permitted where the embryos are going to be discarded or die anyway as the result of the parents’ decision. Sen. Obama, too, wants to lift the restriction.
But Obama would not stop there. He has co-sponsored a bill — strongly opposed by McCain — that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed. In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would effectively require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning. It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term. This “clone and kill” bill would, if enacted, bring something to America that has heretofore existed only in China — the equivalent of legally mandated abortion. In an audacious act of deceit, Obama and his co-sponsors misleadingly call this an anti-cloning bill. But it is nothing of the kind. What it bans is not cloning, but allowing the embryonic children produced by cloning to survive.
Can it get still worse? Yes.
Decent people of every persuasion hold out the increasingly realistic hope of resolving the moral issue surrounding embryonic stem-cell research by developing methods to produce the exact equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using (or producing) embryos. But when a bill was introduced in the United States Senate to put a modest amount of federal money into research to develop these methods, Barack Obama was one of the few senators who opposed it. From any rational vantage point, this is unconscionable. Why would someone not wish to find a method of producing the pluripotent cells scientists want that all Americans could enthusiastically endorse? Why create and kill human embryos when there are alternatives that do not require the taking of nascent human lives? It is as if Obama is opposed to stem-cell research unless it involves killing human embryos.
This ultimate manifestation of Obama’s extremism brings us back to the puzzle of his pro-life Catholic and evangelical apologists. They typically do not deny the facts I have reported. Each fact is a matter of public record.
But despite Obama’s injustices against the most vulnerable human beings, and despite the extraordinary support he receives from the industry that profits from killing the unborn, some Obama supporters insist that he is the better candidate from a pro-life point of view.
They say that his economic and social policies would so diminish the demand for abortion that the overall number would actually go down — despite the federal subsidizing of abortion and the elimination of hundreds of pro-life laws. The way to save lots of unborn babies, they say, is to vote for the “pro-choice” candidate. They tell us not to worry that Obama opposes the Hyde Amendment, the Mexico City Policy (against funding abortion abroad), parental consent and notification laws, conscience protections, and the funding of alternatives to embryo-destructive research. They ask us to look past his support for Roe v. Wade, the Freedom of Choice Act, partial-birth abortion and human cloning and embryo killing. An Obama presidency, they insist, means less killing of the unborn.
This is delusional.
We know that the federal and state pro-life laws and policies that Obama has promised to sweep away (and that John McCain would protect) save thousands of lives every year. Planned Parenthood’s own statistics show that in each of the seven states that have FOCA-type legislation on the books, “abortion rates have increased while the national rate has decreased.” In Maryland, where a bill similar to the one favored by Obama was enacted in 1991, he notes that “abortion rates have increased by 8% while the overall national abortion rate decreased by 9%.” The message clearly conveyed by policies such as those Obama favors is that abortion is a legitimate solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancies — so clearly legitimate that taxpayers should be forced to pay for it.
But for a moment let’s suppose, against all the evidence, that Obama’s proposals would reduce the number of abortions, even while subsidizing the killing with taxpayer dollars. Even so, many more unborn human beings would likely be killed under Obama than under McCain. A Congress controlled by strong Democratic majorities under Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would enact the bill authorizing the mass industrial production of human embryos by cloning for research in which they are killed. As president, Obama would sign it. The number of tiny humans created and killed under this legislation (assuming that an efficient human cloning technique is soon perfected) could dwarf the number of lives saved as a result of the reduced demand for abortion — even if we take a delusionally optimistic view of what that number would be.
Barack Obama’s America is one in which being human just isn’t enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin.
When asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, Obama replied: “that question is above my pay grade.” But his record reveals his true answer: Human beings have no rights until infancy — and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.
The efforts of Obama’s Catholic apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate don’t even amount to a nice try. Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies.
Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University.
He is a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.
George wrote a longer version of this essay for ThePublicDiscourse.com