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Obama, Catholics & Abortion


Last week’s Time poll has Obama and McCain practically even among Catholics — 44% to 45% respectively. The numbers for Kerry and Bush at the same time in the 2004 campaign were 45% to 43% respectively. Bush went on to beat Kerry among Catholics 52% to 47%.It would be helpful to know if the Time poll had asked respondents whether they were aware of the candidates’ positions on abortion (parental notification laws, partial birth abortion, etc.), particularly Obama’s. There’s a fair probability that a sizeable percentage of respondents aren’t yet aware of Obama’s specific stances.

A reader recently asked Ramesh whether Obama was the most ardent  senate supporter of abortion rights. Ramesh can correct me, but I recall he responded that Obama was at least tied for the title.The response was precise. The Induced Birth Infant Liability Act (“IBILA”), a bill Obama voted against while in the Illinois state legislature, arguably isn’t an abortion bill, although Obama himself characterized it as such (more accurately, he referred to it as an anti-abortion bill). The bill was designed to extend  to infants born after an attempted abortion the same rights to medical care as other infants born alive.

Were Obama’s vote against IBILA considered an abortion-rights related vote, he would easily vault into the lead among  senate abortion rights supporters: when a similar measure, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (“BAIPA”) was introduced in the U.S. senate not one senator voted against it (his lead persists even if one credits Obama’s recent claim that he would’ve voted for BAIPA,  although a reasonable scrutiny of the claim renders it unpersuasive. The rationale Obama provided in support of his IBILA vote indicates — contrary to his latest rhetoric — that Obama would tolerate no restrictions whatsoever on abortion ).

As the vote in the U.S. senate suggests, Obama’s vote on IBILA is radioactive. Voters favor restrictions on partial birth abortion by a margin of 3 to 1. IBILA  pertains to living, breathing infants completely outside of the womb, and would presumably attract support at least as great as that for restrictions on PBA.Catholics aren’t single-issue voters but abortion-related issues remain important for a significant segment of Catholics, especially those who attend Mass regularly. Obama’s numbers are likely to erode, if not plummet, among this cohort should  the facts of his IBILA vote penetrate the electorate.


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