WASHINGTON (BP) -- President Obama addressed the nation's largest abortion provider Friday (April 26), criticizing pro-life laws on the state level and saying that those who wish to restrict or ban abortion are trying to turn back "progress."
Obama never mentioned the word "abortion" during his speech at the Planned Parenthood gala, preferring words such as "choice." Planned Parenthood performed a record 333,964 abortions during 2010-11, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
He became the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood.
"After decades of progress there's still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century," Obama said. "And they're involved in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women's health. Forty-two states have introduced laws that would ban or severely limit access to a woman's right to choose."
He mentioned, by name, two states: North Dakota and Mississippi.
"In North Dakota, they just passed a law that outlaws your right to choose, starting as early as six weeks," he told the crowd.
The law in question would prohibit abortion based on when the unborn child has a heartbeat, which could be as soon as six weeks into gestation. It is expected to be challenged in court.
In Mississippi, Obama said, "a ballot initiative was put forward that could not only have outlawed your right to choose but could have had all sorts of other far-reaching consequences."
He was referring to a personhood initiative, defeated at the Mississippi ballot in 2011, that would have defined the term "person" to include "every human being from the moment of fertilization." It lost, partially because pro-lifers in the state were divided over it and partially because opponents made the campaign about everything but abortion.
"When you read about these laws," Obama said, "you want to check the calendar. You want to make sure you're still living in 2013. Forty years after the Supreme Court affirmed a woman's constitutional right to privacy, including the right to choose, we shouldn't have to remind people that when it comes to a woman's health, no politician should get to decide what's best for you."
He then added, "The only person who should get to make decisions about your health is you. That's why we fought so hard to make healthcare reform a reality."
Planned Parenthood, he said in affirming the organization's mission, "is not going anywhere."
"It's not going anywhere today, it's not going anywhere tomorrow," Obama said.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, had released a statement prior to Obama's speech saying he "has done more than any president in history for women's health and rights."
Obama did not discuss Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor who allegedly practiced infanticide in his clinic and faces counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of viable children who were killed after delivery.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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