Politics & Policy

Absolute Reduction

Barack Obama and abortion.

Milling around the media room after the Saddleback Forum, I learned that while John McCain was onstage talking with Rick Warren, Barack Obama was sitting down backstage to an interview with David Brody of CBN News. Brody took the opportunity to press Obama on the issue of his record of opposition to legally protecting babies who are born alive after an abortion.

Obama became visibly irritated and replied to Brody: “I hate to say that people are lying, but here’s a situation where folks are lying.”

Interesting choice of words. A little projection maybe?

Perhaps Obama had lying about abortion policy on his mind since he himself had just provided a particularly blatant example. Astonishingly, during his reply to Warren’s question about abortion, Obama made the assertion that “over the last eight years,” under the Bush administration, “abortions have not gone down.”

In actual fact, according to data released by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute in January of this year, the abortion rate has fallen dramatically and is as low as it has been since 1974. The absolute number of abortions has also fallen to 1.2 million per year, a decline of 25 percent since a high in 1990.

As the old saying goes, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. And Obama is clearly trying to work up a good story as his extremist abortion position continues to come under scrutiny.

Well, of course he is. . . so why is garden-variety mendacity from a presidential candidate remarkable? The first reason is because this particular fib is more than just a throwaway line; it’s a pointer toward his latest positioning on abortion. And his use of this new messaging at Saddleback this weekend is an illustration of his very deliberate attempt to craft an abortion message that appeals to nominally pro-life church attendees.

The Democrats are road-testing a reworking of the Clintonian theme: safe, legal, and rare. The new version isn’t packaged in clever phrasing, but it is calculated messaging nonetheless. Obama’s abortion spin is this hoary theme: Let’s focus on abortion reduction.

Sadly, they are trying to pour this rancid old wine into new wineskins with the assistance of Religious Left leaders like Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo. In response to the news released last week that the Democratic platform had been “improved” to include language extolling the “choice” of motherhood, Wallis cheered this “significant step forward.” Wallis argues there, and in many other outlets, that the abortion- reduction strategy is the way to find common ground. Demonstrating a jaw-dropping moral obtuseness for a religious leader, Wallis concludes that the new language hailing maternity in the Democratic platform “will help make room for people, especially in the religious community, who have strong moral convictions about abortion.”

There’s a further irony in Obama’s scrambling to make a morally repellent position more palatable. Lost in all the spin about “common ground” is the bottom line reality that Americans already share common beliefs about abortion policy. A Gallup poll released this May found that while 50 percent of Americans describe themselves as “pro-choice,” a full 71 percent of Americans believe that abortion “should be legal only under certain circumstances,” or “illegal in all circumstances.”

Common-sense restrictions on abortion, like parental notification and spousal notification receive high levels of support. And this is the second reason the truth about the data on abortion reduction matters. There are policies that have been proven to reduce the abortion rate. For example, research from Michael New of the University of Alabama has demonstrated the effectiveness of parental-notification laws in reducing abortions. Nevertheless, it is precisely this kind of common ground, abortion reduction policy that Obama actually opposes.

In this context, Obama’s lie about the lack of reduction in the number of abortions takes on more significance. It’s not that he simply didn’t know the truth; he wants to obscure the truth about what actually works in abortion policy because it runs counter to his campaign narrative.

Unintentionally, Obama did stumble into the truth in answering another one of the evening’s questions. When Warren asked him to name America’s “greatest moral failure,” Obama nimbly responded without hesitation: “I think America’s greatest moral failure in my lifetime has been that we still don’t abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.

The paradox was entirely lost on him. Obama appears not to recognize that his abortion stance places him squarely amongst those he castigates for ignoring the least of our brothers. And, indeed, it is a great moral failure.

– Charmaine Yoest is president and CEO of Americans United for Life Action.

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