Beliefnet
Lynn v. Sekulow

The third Presidential debate did provide another example of the candidates’ views on abortion, but both candidates were unconvincing in their responses to Bob Schieffer’s questions on the matter. On whether a potential nominee’s views on Roe would be a “litmus” test for the new President, both Senator McCain and Senator Obama denied it would be.  Frankly, I don’t believe  McCain’s response was truthful.  This is because I am acutely aware of the shenanigans employed by conservative activist groups to guarantee that George W. Bush would only be allowed to get two anti-choice zealots on the court.  Beliefnet’s own Dan Gilgoff wrote a fine book in which he describes how the Right decided to fervently support John Roberts as the new chief justice.  Basically, a number of leaders of your team, Jay (and you may have been there) quickly concluded that because Mrs. Roberts was active in the group Feminists for Life, John could be assumed to be an easy anti-choice vote. It is also now well known that Harriet Miers nomination was sunk because her anti-choice record was non-existent and nobody on the Right wanted to risk another David Souter.  Now, how would a President John McCain possibly pick a nominee who had not proven his or her bona fides on abortion?  You folks would go ballistic and demand he go back to the same short list of federal judges you kept throwing around during the Bush presidency.

On the other hand, I was quite perplexed that Senator Obama answered Schieffer’s question on “partial birth abortion” without making it clear that “partial birth abortion” was a term created on the floor of Congress. It has no legal or medical meaning.  It was just a clever phrase like “death tax”; it doesn’t denote a specific procedure or set of procedures.

Senator Obama did say that he was willing to limit “late term abortions”, but would insist that there be an exception for the health of the mother.  This would have been a fine time, however, for him to clarify his earlier statement that a mother’s “mental distress” might be an insufficient basis for such an abortion. That view has been read by some as demonstrating an  unfortunate lack of parity between physical and mental illness which continues dangerous and aging stereotypes.

On the other social issue the two debated, I was quite happy to see that Senator Obama reiterated his opposition to vouchers, and eventually even indicated that they don’t actually work.  I continue to be troubled by both candidates support for “charter schools” which have been much criticized by academics.

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