Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Obama Goes on the Offense on Abortion

Here’s a new Obama ad on abortion. It’s responding to an independent ad featuring, Gianna Jessen, a survivor of a botched abortion who criticizes Obama for opposing Illinois “born alive” legislation.Putting aside for a moment the conflict over the Born Alive bill, which I’ll address again in a separate post, what’s notable is the evolution of the Obama campaign’s rhetoric on abortion.Until now, they’ve always talked about preserving “choice” and protecting “Roe v. Wade.” I’ve never understood the emphasis on philosophical principles and court cases. It’s why the hosts of The View went through an entire conversation with McCain on abortion without seeming to realize his party supports a ban on all abortion. You could have watched that show and come away believing that McCain just wants the states instead of the Supreme Court to decide these matters, and whichever way they go was fine with him.This time the Obama campaign went directly at the plank in the Republican platform calling for a Constitutional Amendment banning abortion. “He’s running on a platform to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest.” Only 15% of the public supports that position. Here’s the anti-Obama ad on the Born Alive bill, which strikes me as also extremely effective.Two other things strike me about this exchange of ads. First, the Obama campaign is finally taking the Born Alive issue seriously. This has been HUGELY damaging to Obama, especially among those moderate evangelicals he’s been courting. The Obama campaign’s response at first was slow and then muddled.Second, there’s no mention of abortion reduction. May have been two many notes to strike in one ad, but I wonder when they’re planning to mention that? Or have they now concluded that since they’ve probably blown it with moderate evangelicals, there’s no point it emphasizing abortion reduction?

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Douglas Johnson

posted September 19, 2008 at 5:40 pm

In his posting, Mr. Waldman cites the Republican platform language, but perhaps it would be more instructive to focus on the respective candidates’ policy positions.
In a New York Times-CBS News poll conducted Sept. 12-16, the total percentage of respondents who said that abortion should be permitted not at all, or only to save a woman’s life, or only to save the mother’s life, or only to save the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest (McCain’s actual position), was 47 percent. Another 19 percent said abortion should be “permitted, with greater restrictions.” Thus, a total of 66 percent favored moving public policy in the direction of more restrictions — or, as we might put it, more protections for the unborn child.
Now, consider that Senator Obama is a cosponsor of the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA, S. 1173). Senator Obama told the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, “The first thing that I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing I’d do.” (July 17, 2007) Among the clear effects of the FOCA — all openly acknowledged by its chief sponsors and backers — would be to re-legalize partial-birth abortion, require federal and state health programs to fund elective abortions, and remove virtually all existing state and federal limitations on abortion, including waiting periods and parental notification laws.
So: Sixty-six percent want more restrictions, but Obama wants to sweep away virtually all impediments to abortion on demand. Who is out of step with public opinion?
The mainstream media, of course, generally prefer not to spell out the ways in which Obama has made commitments to change the status quo in the pro-abortion direction — usually preferring to stick with general statements like “Obama supports abortion rights.”
Obama’s new TV ad is the latest in his long line of contradictory attempts to rewrite history regarding his role in leading he opposition to the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA) — a role that climaxed at a March 13, 2003 committee meeting, which Obama chaired, at which he voted against and killed a three-sentence BAIPA that was viritually identical to the federal BAIPA that had been enacted without a dissenting vote in Congress the previous year. It is untrue that babies born alive during abortions were already adequately protected in Illinois law — many of them were not protected at all, and the rest were protected inadequately. We have documented Obama’s actions — and the implications of the reasons he gave at the time for those actions — in detail here:
In today’s press, we read that the Obama campaign is sending out on tour a “faith team.” No doubt those surrogates will be talking about “abortion reduction,” even as Obama attacks McCain’s pro-life stance before other audiences. The “abortion reduction” spiel is really a public relations product cooked up at liberal think tanks like Third Way, where veteran pro-abortion activists specialize in developing strategies to help hard-core pro-abortion politicians camouflage their positions. Perhaps some of those who hear members of the Obama “faith team” speak will be among the more than one million Americans who are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment — a law that Obama advocates repealing, which would result in tax-funded abortion on demand and a substantial increase in the number of abortions performed.
Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
National Right to Life Committee

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posted September 19, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Despite the propoganda from the National Right to Life Committe, the fact remains that the GOP platform and McCain’s ambassador to social conservatives–Sarah Palin–are opposed to abortion even in the case of rape and incest, an extreme position that has very little support in the general population. McCain’s attack on Roe v. Wade are also out of the mainstream since most Americans support Roe v. Wade.
I’m not sure what Obama gains from trying to lure “moderate evangelicals” when it means abandoning women and civil libertarians.

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Steven Waldman

posted September 19, 2008 at 6:03 pm

For what it’s worth, elsewhere i’ve pointed out that the Democratic Party platform is EQUALLY out of touch with public opinion.
Percentage who want abortion illegal in all cases (the GOP platform view): 15%
Percentage who want abortion legal in all cases (the Democratic platform view): 17%

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Steven Ertelt

posted September 19, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Geez, where to start:
1) You can’t put aside the debate on the Born Alive bill. The entire point that Obama is avoiding is the fact that he is out of step with even Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and his own running mate Joe Biden in NOT supporting medical care for babies who survive abrotions. This isn’t even partial-birth abortion (which Obama also wants to keep legal) it’s infanticide pure and simple.
2) That you didn’t come away from The View program with the disbelief that Whoopi Goldberg would accuse John McCain of supporting slavery speaks volumes. it is one of the most racist moments in television history. (
3) Johnson is absolutely right that Obama’s pro-abortion position is supported by just 31 percent of Americans. Only 15 percent support McCain on abortion? Actually, the CBS News poll ( shows the highest pluarity of voters support McCain’s position.
4) The Obama ad is extremely effective? So you think calling your opponents “sleazy despicable liars” is offensive and lying about who (it wasn’t McCain) ran ads against you? This, of course, is after FactCheck showed he was lying once before in calling “liars” those pointing out his pro-infanticide votes before. Wow. BeliefNet thinks this is “effective?” You have to be kidding.
Yes, Obama is finally taking his pro-infanticide votes seriously and it shows he needs serious help!
Steven Ertelt

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Steven Ertelt

posted September 19, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Please strike 4) from my previous post. The images were not appearing and it made it look to me you referred to the Obama ad as effective not the original going after him. My apologies. The rest of the comment stands…

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Jill Stanek

posted September 19, 2008 at 6:47 pm

I’m the executive director of, the group airing the Gianna ad that Obama attacked in the ad you posted above.
The Obama ad contained several deceptions. The foremost was his insinuation that journalists were calling our ad “one of the sleasiest ads… ever seen” and “truly vile.”
But a close reading of the dates in the Obama ad showed they were written September 10, 2008, 6 days before the Gianna ad began airing.
In fact, those complaints were actually leveled against McCain’s ad about Obama’s support of comprehensive sex ed for Kindergartners, not ours.
This was a serious mischaractization, one I hope Beliefnet will decry.
Other falsehoods in the ad:
~ Insinuating the Gianna ad was issued by the John McCain campaign, which it clearly was not.’s web address was displayed at the top right of its ad throughout and included a disclaimer at the end in writing and audio stating, “ is responsible for the content of this advertisement.”
~ Obama does not deny he voted 4x against the IL Born Alive Infants Protection Act, just that his votes were “taken out of context.” Obama commonly uses this excuse.
The problem is Obama was the sole senator to speak on the senate floor against Born Alive in both 2001 and 2002, so he provided plenty of fodder to understand the context of his votes. Links to all are here. Obama could not have been more clear, as he stated on the senate floor March 31, 2001:

… I just want to suggest… that this is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny.
Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – child, a nine-month-old – child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place.
I mean, it – it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute. For that purpose, I think it would probably be found unconstitutional.

And how does Obama explain this statement from an October 2004 debate against U.S. Senate opponent Alan Keyes:

At the federal level, there was a similar bill that passed because it had an amendment saying this does not encroach on Roe vs. Wade. I would have voted for that bill.

We now know this was a lie. In fact, Obama voted against the identical version of Born Alive in IL on March 13, 2003, that passed overwhelmingly on the federal level. But the point is, how can Obama state is taking his vote out of context when he later said he would have voted for the very bill he voted against?
~ The Obama ad pulled a quote (“None of those who voted against SB-1082 favored infanticide.”) from a September 5, 2008, Chicago Tribune letter to the editor by former state Sen. Rick Winkel, who sponsored IL’s Born Alive in 2003.
The Obama ad stated, “… accusing Obama of letting infants die? It’s a despicable lie. Even the bill’s Republican sponsor said it’s untrue.”
Since Obama relishes context, here is Winkel’s statement, in context:

On March 12, 2003, I presented the neutrality amendment before the state Health and Human Services Committee chaired by then state Sen. Obama. All 10 committee members voted to add the amendment.
Nevertheless, during the same hearing, the committee rejected the bill as amended on a vote of 4-6-0. Obama voted no.
I was stunned because the neutrality amendment addressed the concerns of opponents. It was the same neutrality language approved by U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry in the federal bill.
None of those who voted against SB-1082 favored infanticide. Rather their zeal for pro-choice dogma was clearly the overriding force behind their negative votes rather than concern that my bill would protect babies who are born alive.

Winkel was attempting genteel semantics. But he confirmed in his next statement that Obama’s pro-abortion zeal caused him to oppose a bill protecting abortion survivors, which is to say the unthinkable but true: During his tenure in the IL Senate Barack Obama successfully fought giving legal protection to abortion survivors, signing some of their death warrants.
Jill Stanek

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posted September 19, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Steven, I’d like you to also explore the inverse question. How has McCain/Palin’s position on abortion hurt them with white women. Now that the Palin effect has peaked, it appears that white women (along with African American and Latinas) are running away from McCain/Palin in droves. How much of that has to do with abortion? Is McCain’s position–and the presence of Palin–turning off women, who tend to support abortion rights?
Maybe the reason Obama is taking the position he does has nothing to do with Evangelicals and Catholics and everything to do with shoring up female voters.

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posted September 19, 2008 at 8:22 pm

I sympathize with rape victims who become pregnant, as We’ve councelled them on occasion outside the mills. If the central issue is whether or not it’s the taking of an innocent human life, then I’m suprised more than 15% don’t oppose abortion (even in cases of rape or incest.) And, according to the polls, there’s a 68% inbetween gapp in the population who aren’t completely for or against abortion (in all cases.) It would be very interesting to hear their views, meaning:
1) If it is the taking of innocent human life, under what circumstances would that be warranted?
2) If it is not, then under what conditions should it ever be forbidden?
Something did happen for the first time with my understanding of Obama, and that’s how (he felt) the Born Alive Infant Protection Act might be ‘unconstitutional’. In his legal view, a fetus doesn’t magically become a person when it is ripped from the mother’s womb, hence it doesn’t incur protection under the equal protection clause. The problem with this line of thinking is that he would essentially be pre-emptively outstepping his bounds as a state legislator (not allowing the judicial branch of government to decide what is and what is not ‘constitutional’) which, although it shows his estute intelligence and foresight (with some arrogance, only being a state legislator), does seem to magnify his zeal and ambition for power.
Also, I was born 3 weeks prematurely via sea-section and have heard what a hassle I was to take care of in the early going. But under Obama’s line of thinking, I wouldn’t have been entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – child, a nine-month-old – child that was delivered to term (for 3 more weeks anyhow.) Just think, my parents didn’t know they could’ve reconsidered the decision and given me ‘hot dose.’ Maybe I’ll discuss it with them the next time we have dinner!
Thanks for your info, Mrs. Stanek and you as well, Mr. Waldman for posting it.

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posted September 19, 2008 at 8:28 pm

Sen. Obama should address the issue of abortion reduction because it’s important. Sen. Biden should do the same, even if it gains them no votes.
Avoiding the issue is not acceptable, at least to this Democrat.

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posted September 19, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Douglas Johnson, National Right to Life Committee provides the same false and distorted information on many websites. There are independent organizations that have debunked the NRLC’s charges against Obama
A Matter of Definition
“What we can say is that many other people – perhaps most – think of “infanticide” as the killing of an infant that would otherwise live. And there are already laws in Illinois, which Obama has said he supports, that protect these children even when they are born as the result of an abortion. Illinois compiled statute 720 ILCS 510/6 states that physicians performing abortions when the fetus is viable must use the procedure most likely to preserve the fetus’ life; must be attended by another physician who can care for a born-alive infant; and must “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as would be required of a physician providing immediate medical care to a child born alive in the course of a pregnancy termination which was not an abortion.” Failure to do any of the above is considered a felony. NRLC calls this law “loophole-ridden.””
What you need to know about the `Born Alive’ controversy and Barack Obama

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Reaganite in NYC

posted September 19, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Dr. Goebbels would have been impressed with B.O.’s latest ad and, generally speaking, with his “Audacity of Hype.” Nevertheless, B.O. is what he is: someone who opposed protections for abortion survivors. Call it “infanticide” or apply a euphemism, if you prefer, but everyone knows what it is.

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posted September 20, 2008 at 12:12 am

Here is a video at L.E.A.R.N.
It has been noted that Obama has voted “Present” many times on Senate bills, unable to vote either “Yes” or “No”. Here’s an issue that is clear-cut for Obama; he voted “No” three times.

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Douglas Johnson

posted September 20, 2008 at 7:18 am

It has been noted that Obama has voted “Present” many times on Senate bills, unable to vote either “Yes” or “No”. Here’s an issue that is clear-cut for Obama; he voted “No” three times.

Obama actually voted “No” on the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act four times. The last time he voted “no” was on March 13, 2003, at a meeting of a committee that he himself chaired. He led all of the committee’s voting Democrats in voting against the bill, which killed it. The complete text of that bill appears below.
Obama did vote “present” on the bill once, on the Senate floor, in 2001. But that did not reflect ambivalence about the bill — he had already voted “no” in committee, and he was the only senator to speak against the bill on the floor. There is a provision in the Illinois Constitution that requires that an absolute majority of the sworn members of the state Senate or state House vote affirmatively in order for a bill to be passed. This means that the substantive effect of voting “present” on a bill on the Illinois Senate floor is exactly the same as voting “no.” The chief Planned Parenthood lobbyist for Illinois has publicly explained that she worked with Obama against the bill, and that voting “present” was merely a tactical move by opponents.
Here is the ENTIRE TEXT of the bill that Obama voted against, and killed, in a committee he himself chaired, on March 13, 2003. What you are about to read is the bill that Obama (and some posters above) want you to believe would have banned abortions.

AN ACT concerning infants who are born alive. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly:
Section 5. The Statute on Statutes is amended by adding Section 1.36 as follows: (5 ILCS 70/1.36 new)
Sec. 1.36. Born-alive infant.
(a) In determining the meaning of any statute or of any rule, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative agencies of this State, the words “person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual” include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.
(b) As used in this Section [the bill], the term “born alive”, with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after that expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.
(c) Nothing in this Section [the bill] shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being born alive as defined in this Section.
Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect upon becoming law.

Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
National Right to Life Committee
Washington, D.C.

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posted September 20, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Michael: “I’m not sure what Obama gains from trying to lure “moderate evangelicals” when it means abandoning women and civil libertarians.”
Michael again: “Is McCain’s position–and the presence of Palin–turning off women, who tend to support abortion rights? Maybe the reason Obama is taking the position he does has nothing to do with Evangelicals and Catholics and everything to do with shoring up female voters.”
These remarks assume that “women”, “female voters,” and “civil libertarians” constitute a separate group from “Catholics” and “Evangelicals.” Well, I’m a woman, a female voter, a civil libertarian (I extend these liberties to the unborn as well, a Catholic, and I was an evangelical for some time, too.
Catholics are composed, by about half, of women, as are Evangelicals and Civil libertarians; women also constitute around 50% of the unborn.
Women, as a category (the “female voters” mentioned), are more pro-life, more anti-abortion, than are men–every survey out there shows this. Most of us know, from having born children, that an abortion is basically an execution by drawing and quartering. It’s a brutal form of torture the true nature of which is not acknowledged by those who view it as the only mechanism which ensures female equality. It isn’t, not by a long shot, and the fecundity of Sarah Palin proves it and enrages her enemies for just that reason–it destroys their most cherished belief. (And no, I’m not voting for her).
Abortion on demand is more supported by males, because it ensures them constant access to, and availability of, women. How about we tell men this? Don’t pressure women for sex. Don’t go out with women you wouldn’t marry. Don’t have sex with a woman unless you’re either willing to marry her or, in the case of an unexpected pregnancy, to BE FAMILY with her. Men who get women pregnant and then want nothing to do with the child are selfish cads.
Women, the same for you. Start respecting yourselves.
Men and women, you’re not going to die from sexual deprivation; you might actually mature and develop and become a real person–a giver instead of a self-centered taker. That’s the paradox–you really want to be happy? Stop trying to fulfill yourself and start sacrificing yourself for someone else.
It’s not about trying to put a genie back in a bottle or toothpaste in a tube. Human beings are moral agents with free will, not toothpaste.

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posted September 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm

On the topic of abortion, even many people who defend the possibility of legal abortions, they say they are not pro-abortion, but they don’t want to punish women who are in this difficult situation. In Germany a curious thing has happened. Something that reflects that legal abortion affects adversely to the country. And also that the change is possible: you can promote a culture of life with the support of the citizens, when really there is a real wish of avoid abortions. Since the liberalization of abortion in this country, the number of abortions is officially four million. For that reason, among others, children are seen as an unintended effect of having sex. Many people thought it was necessary to promote greater social acceptance of children in an aging society. And civil society acted, without waiting for action by the State to promote births. They joined several media organizations in a campaign. Interestingly, after the campaign, the birth rate has risen in Germany. The video is exciting. Look here:
Santiago Chiva (Granada, Spain)

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posted September 20, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Women, as a category (the “female voters” mentioned), are more pro-life, more anti-abortion, than are men–every survey out there shows this.
But a majority of Independent and Democratic women are pro-choice and a significant number of them say abortion is a top issue for them. So by focusing on his pro-choice credentials, he can keep Democrats and get Indpendents who are afraid of the GOP’s stand on abortion.

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posted September 22, 2008 at 2:09 am

Barack Hussein Obama has to please the abortion rights crowd first and foremost because he is a Democrat. Secondly he has to pretend that he is anti-abortion to the rest of the country. A country in which 48 states have tried to ban or restrict abortion only to have their wishes overturned by federal judges.
It is hard to do both and he hasn’t quite found the rhetoric yet.

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