I wrote a short essay for The Weekly Standard that describes an encounter Barack Obama had with a group of anti-abortion protestors who disrupted one of his campaign events in New Hampshire. Obama was thoughtful and level-headed. He displayed admirable strength of character in defending the anti-abortion protestors from the jeers and sniggering of his pro-abortion audience. It was an impressive moment and it spoke well of his temperament and intellectual seriousness.

Obama’s email statement today on the anniversary of Roe is less so:

Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, it’s never been more important to protect a woman’s right to choose. 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. With one more vacancy on the Supreme Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a women’s fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe v. Wade. The next president may be asked to nominate that Supreme Court justice. That is what is at stake in this election.

Throughout my career, I’ve been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

When South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions in a direct effort to have Roe overruled, I was the only candidate for President to raise money to help the citizens of South Dakota repeal that law. When anti-choice protesters blocked the opening of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic in a community where affordable health care is in short supply, I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president . . . .

But we also know that Roe v. Wade is about more than a woman’s right to choose; it’s about equality. It’s about whether our daughters are going to have the same opportunities as our sons. And so to truly honor that decision, we need to update the social contract so that women can free themselves, and their children, from violent relationships; so that a mom can stay home with a sick child without getting a pink slip; so that she can go to work knowing that there’s affordable, quality childcare for her children; and so that the American dream is within reach for every family in this country. This anniversary reminds us that it’s not enough to protect the gains of the past—we have to build a future that’s filled with hope and possibility for all Americans.

Even by the standards of pro-abortion thought, there is nothing here which rises above cant. “Reproductive justice”? Daughters having the same opportunities as their sons? Bragging about ratings from NARAL? This is the type of mindless boilerplate you expect from any generic progressive pol.

Obama does not recognize that abortion, even if one favors its allowance, is a destruction of life. He does not reflect on the toll abortion has taken on society—and in particular the African-American community. He does not even dare approach the Clintonian formulation of wanting to see abortion safe, legal, and rare.

I’m not naïve enough to think that Barack Obama would move to protect the unborn. But based on his prior appeals to thoughtfulness and decency, I did expect him demonstrate a progressive commitment to defending abortion that was tempered by an understanding of the seriousness of the issue.

Instead, there’s nothing here but a full-throated defense of abortion on demand. It’s a disappointment.

Articles by Jonathan V. Last

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