Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Conservative Legal Icon Charles Fried Elaborates on His Obama Endorsement

To me, the most neck-snapping Republican endorsement of Obama comes from Charles Fried, the solicitor general under Ronald Reagan. To say Fried is an important legal figure in the pro-life world is an understatement.
As Solicitor General under Ronald Reagan, Fried was the one who argued that the court should overturn Roe v. Wade in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists .
In 1988, he went back to the court again as Solicitor General under George H. W. Bush and again argued that Roe be overturned, this time as part of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.
In a letter to the McCain campaign, he asked that his name be removed from their legal advisory committee, explaining that the key reason “is the choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis.”
I asked Professor Fried to elaborate on what, if anything, this says about Obama and abortion. He responded with this email:


There are many issues facing the country that are more important than what the President says or believes about abortion. I suspect that there are a great many things that Obama believes and will do with which I will disagree–starting with his judicial nominees, but in a time of economic and foreign policy crisis I found the risk of promoting to the presidency a person as ignorant and inexperienced as Sarah Palin–natural political talent though she is–unacceptable.

UPDATE: I’m told by pro-life friends that the Fried endorsement is less surprising than you might think because Fried has been “soft” on life issues for some time. He argued against Roe v. Wade as solicitor general because that was his job but was never personally pro-life and in 1995 said so.

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Steven Ertelt

posted October 27, 2008 at 12:37 pm

The endorsement doesn’t take away from the fact that Obama supports abortion throughout pregnancy for any reason, opposes parental involvement and a ban on partial-birth abortions, supports taxpayer funding of abortions, etc. McCain is the clear pro-life candidate in this race (

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Michael Heath

posted October 27, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Mr. Ertelt,
Re your comment, “McCain is the clear pro-life candidate in this race”.
I beg to differ. Sen. McCain is the clear anti-abortion rights candidate in this race but not clearly the pro-life candidate.
Pro-life does not equal anti-abortion rights. There are many issues that fall under an appropriate rendering of the term “pro-life”, including whether to go to war or not, military rules of engagement, policies on collateral damage in war, capital punishment, torture, scientific research, end-of-life/trauma medical treatment, etc.
I would argue one can’t clearly define either candidate as pro-life given the complexity of these issues.

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