The Barack Obama “messaging machine” is now in full overdrive mode, seeking to mislead religiously committed Americans into thinking that Obama has a middle-of-the-road position on abortion policy and will promote “abortion reduction.”
In late September, the Obama campaign kicked off a “Faith, Family & Values Tour.” A team of Obama surrogates — including Pepperdine University law school professor Douglas Kmiec, evangelical author Donald Miller, and former congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana — will travel from state to state, seeking the votes of religiously committed Americans. According to a report on BeliefNet.com, the surrogates will be “doing grass-roots evangelizing for Obama in community centers (neutral sites — no houses of worship) and homes. The tour will continue for weeks in most of the key battleground states.”
Another article, on ChristianityToday.com, said that the states to be visited by the tour during the next month include Colorado, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
One important part of the “faith outreach” sales pitch has been to insist that Obama would promote “abortion reduction” policies — that is to say, policies that would have the practical effect of reducing the number of abortions performed, without actually restricting abortion directly. This spiel was really a public relations strategy cooked up at a liberal think tank called third way, where veteran pro-abortion activists develop “messaging” strategies to help pro-abortion politicians camouflage their positions. The third way “Culture Program” (responsible for the “abortion reduction” strategy, among other projects) is directed by Rachel Laser, whose previous job was with the Health and Reproductive Rights group at the National Women’s Law Center, and who before that worked for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, a major abortion provider.
But despite such efforts, more and more Americans are learning that the real Barack Obama is firmly committed to an agenda of sweeping pro-abortion policy changes that, if implemented, could be expected to drastically increase the numbers of abortions performed.
One component of the Obama abortion agenda, the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA, S. 1173), is coming under increased scrutiny from many quarters. The FOCA is the most sweeping piece of pro-abortion legislation ever proposed in Congress. It is a bill that would establish a federal “abortion right” broader than Roe v. Wade and, in the words of the National Organization for Women, “sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies.”
In mid-September, every congressional office received a pointedly worded two-page letter on the FOCA from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), signed by Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-life Activities. Rigali notes, in his opening paragraph, “Pro-abortion groups and some of the bill’s congressional sponsors have said they want this legislation enacted soon.”
Personally, I am aware of only one congressional sponsor of the “Freedom of Choice Act” who has said anything publicly, in the past year or so, to indicate that he would like to see the bill enacted soon. That sponsor is the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, Senator Barack Obama.
Obama is not “merely” a cosponsor of the bill, but someone who has declared enactment of the FOCA to be a top priority. In his too-little-noted speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund on July 17, 2007, Obama said, “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing that I’d do.”
Rigali’s letter, and an accompanying six-page memorandum from the USCCB’s legal office, explain with great clarity the sweeping power of the language contained in the FOCA. Both the letter and the memorandum deserve a wide reading. Here, I will quote only briefly from Rigali’s letter: “First it [the FOCA] creates a ‘fundamental right’ to abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, including a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined ‘health’ reasons. No government body at any level would be able to ‘deny or interfere with’ this newly created federal right. Second, it forbids government at all levels to ‘discriminate’ against the exercise of this right ‘in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.’ For the first time, abortion on demand would be a national entitlement that government must condone and promote in all public programs affecting pregnant women.”
Rigali also wrote: “However, there is one thing absolutely everyone should be able to agree on: We can’t reduce abortions by promoting abortion. . . . We cannot reduce abortions by insisting that every program supporting women in childbirth and child care must also support abortion. No one who sponsors or supports legislation like FOCA can credibly claim to be part of a good-faith discussion on how to reduce abortions.”
The mainstream-news media have, with few exceptions, been very compliant with Obama’s recent efforts to downplay his hard-line pro-abortion history and policy commitments, for the purpose of winning the general election.
For example, major media comparisons of the “abortion” positions of Obama and McCain often describe Obama’s supposed position in brief, vague terms, such as “supports abortion rights” or “supports Roe v. Wade,” which will be interpreted in very different ways by different people, and that avoid giving readers or viewers information about the specific abortion-related policies to which Obama is committed. These opaque characterizations are set side-by-side with detailed explorations of whether McCain supports any exceptions, the exact meaning of the Republican platform plank on abortion, and so forth.