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I knew you would not be happy, Jay, that President Obama did what he had always said he would do–remove the restriction against even discussing abortion by groups which are engaged in international family planning and receive any tax dollars. The rule imposed by the Bush Administration was so broad that it prohibited such counseling or referral even with privately raised dollars, much less those government dollars.
The fact that these funds have been unavailable has had an incalculable negative effect on the health and safety of women all over the world. Combined with U.S. “no condoms” policies and other anti-scientific actions, the Bush Admininistration left a legacy of bad “public health” carnage. I actually spoke about this last year at the Harvard University School of Public Heatlh and wrote about it in a column.
I also knew that the Roman Cathollic hierarchy in the United States and the Vatican itself would not like Obama’s move. What I found really odd was the language the Vatican used to condemn the action: arrogance. Monsignor Rino Fisichella said Obama had “the arrogance of those, being in power, [who] believe they can decide of life and death”.
Of course, some of us have been deeply concerned for years about another kind of arrogance: the arrogance of those men with ecclesiastical power who have managed to delegitimatize the moral decision-making power of women in regard to reproductive health. They have often resided in places like the Vatican and they have often successfully lobbied secular officials around the globe to bend to their theological arguments.
Barack Obama has stood up to them. This does not make him “pro-abortion”. This just makes him the first President in eight years who seems to know that there is a difference between state-imposed religious dogma and the American concept of making ethical choices based on one’s own spiritual and reasonable principles.