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Barack Obama On Abortion

2008 Presidential Campaign

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Although abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973 when the U.S.Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that during the first trimester a woman has the right to decide what happens to her body, it remains a contested issue in political campaigns. This issue summary documents statements made by Sen. Barack Obama on the topic of abortion.

Roe v Wade

22 January 2008:
Last year, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5-4 to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, and in doing so undermined an important principle of Roe v. Wade: that we must always protect women's health.

Note: Obama is referencing the ban on partial-birth abortion, something he supports.

Late Term or "Partial Birth" Abortions

Fox News Sunday, 27 April 2008:
On an issue like partial birth abortion, I strongly believe that the state can properly restrict late-term abortions. I have said so repeatedly. All I've said is we should have a provision to protect the health of the mother, and many of the bills that came before me didn't have that.

Democratic Debate, 27 April 2007:
Now, when you describe a specific procedure that accounts for less than 1 percent of the abortions that take place, then naturally people get concerned and, I think, legitimately so. But the broader issue is, do women have the right to make these profoundly difficult decisions? And I trust them to do it.

HHS Draft Rule Redefining Contraception As Abortion - 2008

Obama joined 27 other Senators in signing a letter criticizing the draft rule that would redefine contraception as abortion.

Vitter Amendment - S 1200: Health Care for Indigenous Peoples - 2008

Fox News Sunday, 27 April 2008:
On an issue like partial birth abortion, I strongly believe that the state can properly restrict late-term abortions. I have said so repeatedly. All I've said is we should have a provision to protect the health of the mother, and many of the bills that came before me didn't have that.

Democratic Debate, 27 April 2007:
Now, when you describe a specific procedure that accounts for less than 1 percent of the abortions that take place, then naturally people get concerned and, I think, legitimately so. But the broader issue is, do women have the right to make these profoundly difficult decisions? And I trust them to do it.

Vitter Amendment - Appropriations Bill - 2007

October 2007: Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) proposed an amendment to HR 3043 (appropriations for Health and Human Services) that would prohibit HHS from providing grants to organizations that perform abortions when a woman's life is not in danger, unless the organization is a hospital. The amendment failed (41-52). Obama did not vote.

In His Own Words

From his campaign 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.

While An Illinois Senator - 1997 and 2001

Obama has been criticized for having voted "present" on five key anti-abortion "anti-women" bills in 2001 (and two in 1997) while he was an Illinois state senator. In the 2001 votes, he followed the recommended strategy of Illinois Planned Parenthood not the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for Women, according to the Washington Post.

The Importance Of This Issue In This Election

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, 16 March 2008:

"The next president will nominate several hundred federal judges, probably including two or more Supreme Court justices... Few elections in our lifetime have been as consequential for the pro-life cause as this year's is likely to be. The next president will likely determine the course of the Supreme Court for decades to come, and will make the difference between continuing the progress made by the pro-life movement in the past three decades or reversing course and reinforcing a culture of abortion and embryo destruction that rejects fundamental human equality."

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