IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Barack Obama and John McCain on Roe v. Wade, abortion
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a special series of stories focusing on the election that Baptist Press will run between now and Nov. 4. Stories will run on Wednesdays and Fridays.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Each weekend for the next two months, Baptist Press will post a story focusing on one specific issue and detailing where the two major presidential candidates stand. Called "In Their Own Words," the stories will avoid commentary and instead present the candidates' views as they have stated them in the past -- either in interviews, speeches, debates or on their campaign websites.
Among the topics that will be covered are the definition of marriage and gay rights, Supreme Court nominees, Darfur, the energy crisis, the environment, Iraq, immigration and taxes. Today's issue is abortion.
-- What Obama thinks about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion (taken from his website): "Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case" (BarackObama.com).
-- What Obama thought about the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the federal ban on partial-birth abortion: "I strongly disagree with today's Supreme Court ruling, which dramatically departs from previous precedents safeguarding the health of pregnant women. As Justice Ginsburg emphasized in her dissenting opinion, this ruling signals an alarming willingness on the part of the conservative majority to disregard its prior rulings respecting a woman's medical concerns and the very personal decisions between a doctor and patient. I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman's right to choose, and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a matter of equal rights for women" (Obama campaign statement, April 18, 2007).
-- Obama answering at what point “does a baby get human rights?”: "I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade. But let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion, because this is something obviously the country wrestles with. One thing that I'm absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And so I think anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is not paying attention" (Saddleback presidential forum, Aug. 16, 2008).
-- What Obama says about how his administration would approach the abortion issue: "I've made it ... clear that I will never back down from making sure that women have their reproductive rights here in this country. That's what's at stake in this election" (New York fundraiser, July 10, 2008). "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act (a bill that would overturn abortion restrictions and guarantee that abortion remains legal, even if Roe is overturned)" (Speech to Planned Parenthood, July 17, 2007).
-- What Obama thinks about John McCain's views on abortion: "Sen. McCain has made it abundantly clear that he wants to appoint justices like [Supreme Court Justices John] Roberts and [Samuel] Alito and that he hopes to see Roe overturned. I was proud to get Planned Parenthood's endorsement [this summer], but I have to say that when you look who's got a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, and you've got another candidate [McCain] with a zero percent rating from Planned Parenthood, then it's not really a nail-biter [in deciding whom to support]. I stand by my votes against confirming Justices [John] Roberts and [Samuel] Alito" (Speech, July 10, 2008).
-- What McCain thinks about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion (taken from his website): "John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench. Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. The difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat" (JohnMcCain.com).
-- What McCain thought about the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a federal ban on partial-birth abortion: "Today's Supreme Court ruling is a victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life and integrity of the judiciary. The ruling ensures that an unacceptable and unjustifiable practice will not be carried out on our innocent children. It also clearly speaks to the importance of nominating and confirming strict constructionist judges who interpret the law as it is written, and do not usurp the authority of Congress and state legislatures. As we move forward, it is critically important that our party continues to stand on the side of life" (McCain campaign statement, April 18, 2008).
-- McCain answering at what point “does a baby get human rights?”: "At the moment of conception." (Saddleback presidential forum, Aug. 16, 2008).
-- What McCain says about how his administration would approach the abortion issue: "I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress [and] in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president. And this presidency will have pro-life policies.... That's my commitment to you" (Saddleback presidential forum, Aug. 16, 2008).
-- What McCain thinks about Barack Obama's views on abortion: "In 2002, Congress unanimously passed a federal law to require medical care for babies who survive abortions -- living, breathing babies whom Sen. Obama described as, quote, 'previable.' This merciful law was called the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Illinois had a version of the same law, and Barack Obama voted against it. At Saddleback, he assured a reporter that he'd have voted 'yes' on that bill if it had contained language similar to the federal version of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Even though the language of both the state and federal bills was identical, Senator Obama said people were, quote, 'lying' about his record. When that record was later produced, he dropped the subject but didn't withdraw the slander. And now even Senator Obama's campaign has conceded that his claims and accusations were false.... His extreme advocacy in favor of partial birth abortion and his refusal to provide medical care for babies surviving abortion should be of grave concern to reasonable people of goodwill on both sides of this issue" (John McCain weekly radio address, Aug. 23, 2008).
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.